My SUPERPOWER

 

I wasn’t a fan of Ricky Gervais. I know he must be funny because he’s big in Hollywood, and I am German, I don’t have humour! I am more a Robin Williams person, or Russell Brand with his fast brain, thinking around 7 corners at the same time, and yet bringing it all together to make sense, sort of…

But what is it with comedians that portray serious and devastating life issues with such conviction?! Sure, isn’t it always the Clown who in reality suffers depression, is suicidal and may be shy in real life? It certainly takes a sensitive person who experienced life in the different facets. Or if personal loss hasn’t graced them yet, observe closely and understand pain even without having to suffer that particular pain. Clowns who can interpret life from all angles in order to be funny and believable!

And it always fascinates me how humans work. I get blocked on Twitter of course, due to my Pret rants. I do these “drive-by” Tweets where someone comments on Pret. And as fast as I drop into the conversation, I drop out again. I do this, because time is short and conversations keep going on. Silly, I know! But I’m like a politician who’s going from door to door knocking. I’m not running for an office, I run an online-marathon of raising awareness of Pret A Manger where two customer deaths were not acted upon until they became public, and where I ask for independent investigations into staff deaths including suicides. How people “vote” in their decision on what they learn, is up to them.

Sometimes the blocks are completely justified because I came across rude, certainly angry etc. Other times, actually the majority of the blocking, is due to simply how bold my Twitter profile is. At times I just “like” a Tweet and boom I get blocked, never having posted to or with the person. I bluntly mention in the few characters Twitter gives me that my brother died and I was bullied in Pret. I know, I know, a great downer from the get go!! What people don’t understand is, that I am not looking for friends or a following. I am very grateful for the support and the people who do follow, especially when they keep following even during my flip-outs! THOSE are the followers/friends/people I care to know. And the conversations that are happening in the background, positive or negative, people don’t see. Thank God!

At one time in a drunken stupor I blocked everyone, kicked all out, unblocked them again because it wasn’t against them personally, I was just overwhelmed with 30 followers that I didn’t even know! I had worse flip-out since my brother died and lost a lot of friends. But what always fascinates me is that some people who block me, because I am too blunt or loud about my story, these same “blockers” follow people like Ruby Wax, Russell Brand and famous people who have had horrific mental pain and/or a serious drug “career” behind them.

They’ve been to the bottom and back. And when they were unknown, I’m sure no-one would have wanted to be around them, let alone follow them on social media. But now, they’re millionaires and turned their trauma and healing into a career. Now they’re funny and they explain hell in a heavenly way! Death, grief, trauma, drug addiction is sanitized now. Now they are popular, it’s acceptable, even desirable to be “wacky”. We follow success. We don’t want to know the people WHILE they are in the mess! Just tell us how crazy you were in your past, we want to know once you are good again! Alright!?

So, I stumbled over this Netflix series with Ricky Gervais, who’s the brains behind, and all the main parts in it again. I saw this Tweet two days ago while I was searching hashtags. A bereaved mother mentioned Gervais’ “Afterlife” series under the #TraumaticGrief hashtag.

I don’t have Netflix anymore, as I unsubscribed from everything including Amazon. But the few snippets of this series are enough to be 1. devastated that it takes the film industry again to 2. understand what bereaved and traumatized people go through!! It takes a film again to show how torturous loss and grief is. No, it’s no excuse to be outrageously rude to people. It’s not about a license to offend, but it’s high time that the subject of grief, trauma, all the messy complications of it are talked about. People die by suicide. It’s called the “silent killer”.

“In 2017, 5,821 suicides were recorded in Great Britain. Of these, 75% were male and 25% were female.” – MentalHealth.org.uk

“Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK.” – TheCalmZone.net

“In the UK, the highest suicide rate was for men aged 45-49.” – Samaritans

So, what does that mean, that we should go around offending people so we won’t kill ourselves? It’s not about a license, it’s about understanding how grief and trauma sometimes manifests. And even though “Afterlife” is dramatized and also polished up, the messiness isn’t as extreme as it is in real life, I understand that the subject has to be accessible for “regular” mortals. One step at a time! And even though I haven’t seen the whole season, I think Gervais succeeded here! And it took someone like Ricky Gervais to do this, so people feel “safe” to test the waters of what will come to all of us eventually.

In our society we push people back into the grief-closet! We love to look with pity on the grieving mother, as long as she’s nice and quiet, hidden away at home. We love her few, little, quiet tears. We offer to be there for her if she needs anything. And we damn right mean it! And she must be okay, because she never calls. And if she goes around offending people, well hell yeah, she’s a bad and rude person! She’s out of line! Get back in line! Get a grip lady! How dare she dump her pain on us! We have lives to live and kids to raise. Don’t bother us with death and grief!

What hit me most from roaming through the various “Afterlife” clips is the one thing that Ricky Gervais says, which was exactly how I felt. Ricky’s character lost his wife to breast cancer. His trauma and pain is so unbearable for him. He turns to cynicism, and it leads him to lash out at anyone with the vilest, darkest, yet colourful barrage of insults. I never used the F-Word until my brother died! I can relate! He offends anyone, except a fellow widow and his dad who suffers dementia. I can also relate. One of the things he says to his therapist in a nutshell is, that when everything fails, he still has his “superpower”, the option to end his life.

When I started publicly to name Pret A Manger and how Pret, under CEO Clive Schlee and their toxic HR department has bullied me during the darkest time of my life, I did with Plan B in mind. I had nothing to lose but life itself. And life that I have is no life. It’s just a blob of existence waiting to end. My full story in the interview at the bottom of this page, but Pret gaslighting me, communicated that my emailing was wrong. Yet, they were having a laugh and stepped all over me from the very top senior leaders using even HQ personnel. When I started naming Pret I was shaking in fear, but I didn’t care anymore. What Ricky Gervais called his “superpower” was my Plan B. I can always end it all and almost did in 2015/16…

I am not advising people to have this strategy for themselves in order to cope with grief, pain and trauma. But it was just how it was for me. And in “Afterlife” Gervais portrays this brilliantly! Everything has stopped for him. Nothing matters anymore. We might as well now do whatever comes to mind.

After having followed all the rules, paid our taxes, loved our closest ones, worked hard, played by the book… with all the imperfections and failings, it all didn’t mean anything in the end… Suicide is the last Superpower and control of a broken person who’s had the foundation underneath their feet pulled away from them!

And maybe sometimes it’s better to watch a film or series like “Afterlife” and scrap all the therapy business!

For anyone who is suicidal, or knows someone who is, and doesn’t feel life is worth living, if you are in or close to London UK, please check out these two charities that support people who are suicidal. They give one-on-one sustained support:

Maytree – Brief intro on YouTube.

The Listening Place  – Intro on Vimeo.

I can vouch for the Listening Place from own experience.

So, I have to find myself a way to view “Afterlife”. And I will NOT do a “viewer discretion advised” warning for the YouTube trailer here even though indirectly I just did! But we are not given permission, nor discretion advise when we are born. I had no “viewer discretion” when I received the message of my brother’s death AND cremation via email. I assume that no child under 18 is reading my blog, but if they do, welcome to my blog! Thanks for stopping by. For the rest, I know you Christians out there are big boys and girls, you can handle this.

Thank you Ricky Gervais and everyone involved in this, for your courage to take a shot at this taboo subject that is death, grief, trauma and all the mess of it.

 

If anyone has Netflix, please check this out. If it is as good as I subject it is, could you feedback? I won’t go back into subscribing to anything in the near future. I lean towards becoming an old woman planting trees.

 


 

I worked at Pret A Manger for almost 10 years and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather starve and speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
I also tell my story for the first time verbally in this >>>
podcast interview based in California, and wrote an article in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.

Interview:

 

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My Odyssey through the Mental Health System

 

My odyssey through the mental health system started with my brother’s death.

He died in December 2014 but we didn’t know that he was dead AND cremated until January 2015, 5 weeks after his death!

Apart from the trauma and shock, I moved like a hypnotized zombie stumbling around on autopilot. I started to investigate and continued to work in-between all the errands and family matters I had to run, traveling back and forth between London and Germany until my savings out.

With some common sense still in tact, I immediately sought help via my doctor. After the funeral and all the main errands where done, I went to my doctor around February 2015 as I realized very quickly that I can’t handle this on my own, still working and also trying to help my family. I remember a friend saying to me how surprised she was that I got a counseling spot so fast as she once waited over a year for a spot when she was in deep depression and suicidal.

 

COUNSELOR #1 – Spring 2015

I was lucky to have gotten a place very fast in May 2015 with a counselor. But when I did the initial telephone assessment with the NHS, I asked for bereavement counseling and assumed this is what I was then referred to.

The NHS funded 6 session and rejected further sessions that the counselor applied for. He then gave me a rebate and I continued for a further 7 sessions (13 altogether) paying out of my pocket. The sessions didn’t help, for several reasons, one I was gobsmacked when the counselor suggested in the 4th session for me to do an additional counseling session with a bereavement counselor.

But I thought HE was the bereavement counselor! I also learned later towards my last sessions that he was a trainee therapist. Nothing against trainees, we all have to start somewhere, but I needed an experienced therapist who understands trauma.

I also think it didn’t help because of the timing. I was is such a state of shock and a whirlwind that was going on in my head. But I needed help and my friends were overwhelmed from the get go, because of the circumstances of my brother’s death, the way I found out and all the lack of support from the Police etc. I didn’t want to, and couldn’t put this on my friends. And yet, months later I hurt all my friends and strangers in a complete traumatized state!

I quit after the 13th session.

 

COUNSELOR #2 – Mid 2015

Then a friend introduced me to a private counseling organization which is Christian based. By then I ran out of money as my savings dried up with the errands and flights to Germany. The assessment alone cost £50 which my friend lent to me.

But this counseling procedure didn’t sit with me, and I didn’t have the funds to pay for the sessions thereafter. I didn’t go back.

 

COUNSELOR #3 – Mid to Fall 2015

This wasn’t a counselor, but a free volunteer organization a friend passed on to me because I started to lament that I can’t find help. It was Cruse, the largest bereavement service in the UK. I was offered 8 fortnightly evening sessions with a young volunteer, who seemed very knowledgeable and well trained. But I quit after 4 sessions because she lied about something, which for me was devastating, because the foundation of especially counseling has to be an honest foundation.

We did an initial phone assessment after which she offered the 8 sessions. After a few weeks after the assessment call, I received a text message from an unknown number about my first appointment. I logged the number in my phone as plainly “Cruse” assuming that it was an automated Cruse number texting out appointments. My GP does that and other official organizations, where you cannot reply, or if you reply, it is not picked up. So, I assumed this was an automated Cruse number for the sole purpose of sending text reminders.

After my second appointment with the Cruse volunteer I noticed that the “Cruse” number that is automatically also stored with Whatsapp has her photo on the avatar with a cat on her shoulders. I never checked this before as I didn’t use Whatsapp much. I was perplexed that a volunteer would use their personal number for Cruse, but didn’t make much of it.

In our 3rd session I talked about the videos I was making for my brother on YouTube and that this is the only thing at that time which helped me somewhat. She then offered for the 4th session to bring her iPad and that we could look at the videos there. As I had 2 weeks to think about it, I decided to not want to do this in the session as this would mean nothing to me because she didn’t know my brother. It would have been much more meaningful if a friend or family would watch this with me, as we knew my brother and could have remembered situations of some of the photos.

Once I was sure I didn’t want to watch the videos in the 4th session with the volunteer I texted the “Cruse” number to pass on a message to this volunteer not to bring her iPad. The sessions we had was at 7pm every two weeks. I assumed that she might have worked all day and came straight to the sessions from work. I wanted to avoid her carrying an iPad around, which isn’t very light, while I decided I didn’t want to watch my videos. That was the only time I texted that number to pass on to the volunteer assuming it was a general Cruse number.

In the 4th session she thanked me for the message that had been passed on to her and that this isn’t her number. I was confused that and WHY she even mentioned that it wasn’t her number. I assumed it was Cruse number. But now I think she tried to protect herself and accidentally gave away that it IS indeed her number, but lied as she feared I’d contact her again. But I never did and always assumed this was Cruse’s number.

After the session it dawned on me that this IS her number and in anger I confronted her about lying and I never went back. I thought if she lies about this, what else would she lie about in regards to Cruse etc. This was around the time of the first grievance that was raised by the HR advisor at work on my behalf.

By now it is the end of 2015 and the bullying in Pret is in full gear! (For any new reader to my blog, my story with Pret is in an interview audio player at the bottom of this page). After around 9 months of approaching Pret, their HR department and managers / area managers, an HR advisor heard my story for the first time from me. Up until then she only knew the area manager’s side who was the catalyst of the bullying, involving several managers and shops against me.

When this HR advisor heard my side for the first time, she became dead quiet on the phone as I shared what I was going through in my shop. I had to check my phone at one point thinking it just switched off the phone call like it sometimes did, because she was completely quiet. I asked, “Are you still there?” to which she answered in a very quiet, slow and solemn way, “I’m listening”. She then let me continue what I went through.

I understood later that she must have been shocked to hear a completely different story than what she was fed back up until then. To my initial shock, she then raised a grievance on my behalf against my line manager and his boss, the catalyst of the bullying. She raised the grievance on the grounds of “bullying” and was supposed to be at the hearing, but was “sick” I was told. I never heard from her again and immediately went into paranoia, because for the first time there was someone who believed me, but she was taken out of the process. And the first hearing they rushed through and seemed very annoyed that I was even there. The hearing process itself was very dodgy in many ways. I will write about the Pret HR hearings (10 altogether) I went through and how systemic it was. But I want to concentrate on the mental health system here.

But all the bullying allegations were rejected fully, which led me to appeal etc.

The appeal was only substantiated in a tiny little thing and I felt from the get go in my gut, that there’s something wrong here. The bullying was never admitted and the hearings were a mess! The bullying continued, even intensified, as my line-manager was angry with me for the partially substantiated grievance against him. He bullied me now openly and aggressively. And after almost a year of approaching HR, managers etc. I contacted Clive Schlee the CEO of Pret, who will be “retiring” officially in September 2019.

New grievance hearings were arranged which then had the initial HR advisor PRESENT who raised the first grievance and was “sick” when the hearing took place. ONLY THEN did Pret start to offer help, AFTER I contacted the CEO. But from how I experienced their “help”, it felt mainly to cover themselves in case of a court claim, so they could say how supportive they were!

 

COUNSELOR #4 – January 2016

I was first referred to a counselor who even lived close by my address in walking distance. Pret’s insurers that arranged the counseling meant well, they probably looked at my address and sought for the closest, most convenient counselor in my area. But I only did 2 sessions with a lady who did counseling from her living room.

Everyone is different, but I don’t like to be in a counseling situation at someone’s private home. The lady was very professional and her living room was arranged like a counseling room, where she had dividers, to separate her private things with her counseling area in the living room. She did nothing bad, but I did not feel comfortable, especially with telling my story of a brother who died in his apartment, was not found until approximately 6 days later when his body was already disintegrating. He left 3 cats behind, that God knows HOW they survived! But the cats ransacked the whole place, probably in distress! I was told his apartment was a complete chaos where the cats pooed everywhere, ripped things apart etc.

My brother was very well kept, handsome, well dressed and his apartments were always super clean and organized. You had to take your shoes off when entering his house, like in my flat as well. But the cats completely destroyed the place! Animals understand death! I remember him sending me photos of his one cat, the mother cat, that slipped out one day and came back pregnant. He kept two kittens and gave the others away.

The mother cat

DSC00221

 

DSC00188

 

My brother loved animals, we grew up with a dog that reached 18 years!! Even as a kid, he was not afraid of anything! When he was around 10 years old he climbed over a fence of a property where they had a kitchen show-room. Our parents went inside to look at kitchens, while we remained in the car right by the window where our parents could still see us. My brother of course always active, couldn’t sit still, saw this huge German Shepherd on the property and climbing the fence, went inside. He cuddled the dog while I was white as a sheet for fear he’d get devoured by this monster! But he didn’t. Actually, this business should have then gotten a new guide dog, because this dog was only useful as a teddy bear and any robber would have easy access!

But how am I going to talk about his death, and all the weird things surrounding it, to a lady who counseled from her private den! I pictured myself counseling someone with a traumatic story in my living room, and being left with the imagery and words alone later in the evening, watching a movie! I would need a professional surrounding, where I can leave the stories in that room and go home to my sanctuary. But some people obviously can do it. And also, this lady, when I told her about Pret, the first counseling was just the day after another grievance hearing. So, I spoke about it and this is what she wanted to concentrate on in the next sessions.

But I needed help with my brother’s death and making sense as best as I could.

The remaining 4 sessions thereafter (6 altogether) were cancelled then on my request, and Pret via their insurer looked for an alternative.

 

COUNSELOR #5 – Early 2016

I was then referred to a Psychoanalyst that the Head of HR introduced me to, saying that he referred other staff to him. These employees were HQ office staff or Operations Managers, people who are in upper leadership roles or jobs, because they were harder and expensive to replace. Regular front-line and low paid staff, from the shops would never be taken care of with paid therapy, except shop managers. Again, anyone who is expensive, in higher position and harder to replace. The rest is fired fast. So, my therapy support paid by Pret ONLY came when I contacted the CEO in WRITING about the bullying and the HR advisor who tried to help, but was “eliminated” from the process. Only then did support start. In fact, reading their email communication between them after I applied for my file, they were running around like headless chickens changing direction now!

I wrote it several times before that I can’t make up my mind if this is stuff for a thriller or a comedy! I’m sure both! But it gave me a lot of insight into the heart of Pret and how deceptive they are.

And again, in the counseling sessions we talked about everything BUT my brother’s death. He wanted to dig into my childhood and wanted to get me to do a cheap 2 year Psycho Analyses with a trainee counselor, where the trainee would learn and I get it half price. I started to think now that there is no help, I don’t need to be guinea pig, I need HELP!!

I learned only then the difference between Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Psychoanalysts! I asked him what I am going through as the emailing started around that time (I explain in my interview at the bottom). This is when he then explained that he can’t diagnose me as he is a Psychoanalyst, not a Psychiatrist.

I quit after 4 sessions of the 6 sessions that were arranged.

Back to square one.

By now the Pret issues continued. I felt blamed that nothing in the counselings seemed to help and I increasingly asked for a trauma specialist via the NHS, Pret, any avenue I could find. This is when I felt increasingly suicidal, still working, started to drink, and the spiral of anxiety and neurotic behaviour added to the nightmare.

In hindsight I can pinpoint very easily WHY the counselings also didn’t help, apart from that I still feel they were the wrong types of counseling. For one, by the time I started into the death of my brother, the 6 sessions were over and I had to start again somewhere else!

And two, I was basically going to counseling once a week or fortnight, went back to work where the bullying continued, this time in a more subtle way. And Pret didn’t understand why the counseling didn’t help me, as I always communicated openly and also quit the counselings, not wanting to waste Pret’s money! I was so stupid and like in a Stockholm Syndrome situation to care about Pret’s money! Figure that!!

But it was like a woman who gets beaten by her husband daily (Pret’s bullying environment), and the husband then gives his wife money to go to hospital and the pharmacy to get “fixed” up (counseling Pret paid for). And when she returns home, he beats her up again…and sends her to the doctor again… and the vicious circle continues. In hindsight, I should have run away FAST from Pret early on! But 1. I never imagined that I would get bullied, and 2. I was in a fogged up daze and a traumatized mind to fully understand what was happening. During the day I was highly professional, worked even very efficiently, and at night I started drinking. I still don’t know how I even worked, and maybe the adrenaline of trauma kept me going on autopilot.

 

COUNSELOR #6 – 2016

I found another charity that offered bereavement counseling. And even though it is a charity, they charge according to your income. I paid a minimal amount for weekly sessions after I was offered 12 sessions. But I did 8 sessions and stopped because the lady seemingly in menopause would freeze and then sweat profusely, and by the clock, around 20 minutes into the sessions would nod off slightly EVERY week!! I kept talking as if nothing happened as it is understandable when someone may be in menopause or even ill. But after 8 sessions I felt like she could at least make an effort and have a glass of ice water and a fan next to her! In hindsight, if this would happen again, I would try to find a way to say something! But I was still in this “nice” mode, continuing something that did not benefit ME!

 

COUNSELOR #7 – 2016 and beyond on and off

I found a charity that works with people who have traumatic loss. All loss is traumatic, but they concentrated on the kind of deaths that don’t seem “normal” or that are premature deaths. But there I also didn’t stay long as I was getting increasingly suicidal. I then found a charity that deals with suicidal people. I became aware of Maytree, a charity that has a house in North London that offers 5 nights for free for suicidal people. I found them via a documentary I saw on YouTube about grief after suicide as I was trying to still find out why my brother died, even though the Police ruled out suicide and fowl play. I was researching all kinds of online support, bereavement forums, YouTube stories, anything!! They showed Maytree in the program where a woman whose husband died by suicide without any previous warnings or signs to her. I link here directly to the part where she visits Maytree to interview the staff.

After a few phone assessments I was advised that I could stay with Maytree after I haven’t drunk anything for 8 weeks. I managed at times to not drink for 2 or 3 weeks, but when I drank something, the clock started at zero again. But Maytree referred me to an ambulant charity in London, called The Listening Place (TLP). They are also run by volunteers in Central London and see people by appointment. I was one of the first “clients” and they were still in the trial period where I was often asked if they can change anything in the service. It was a good way as I was able to help them as well to draft their service, and how they can shape a foundation from which they then offer help.

The Listening Place, even to this day, has been the most professional and helpful, even though they are not paid professionals! I visited TLP on and off between 2016 and 2019.

In 2016 and 2017 I went to hospital suicidal, but was sent away, back into the community and services there. Having applied for my file in 2018 they even clearly mentioned that I was suicidal, and yet I was sent away. In early 2019 I spent a night in the Police station being watched as I went there in fear I’d kill myself that night. I didn’t want to go to the hospital again, getting send away. So I went to the police that I visited already for the third time, but this time they held me over night while waiting for a bed to free up. But all beds were full I was told, so I was sent back home the next morning and I started to go back to TLP again.

The Listening Place

 

COUNSELOR #8

This was a three times 3 hour sessions in group CBT therapy via the NHS, so basically 9 hours of group sessions. This was actually really helpful, but once the group got comfortable in the setting, the program was finished.

 

COUNSELOR #9 – Mid 2016

This was again via the NHS 6 sessions CBT therapy, but even the therapist after the 3rd session realized that this is not what I needed and I was put on a waiting list for another therapy.

 

COUNSELOR #10 – End of 2016

This was again a regular counselor arranged via the NHS. I was now offered 12 session compared to the usual 6 sessions the NHS funds. But this counselor, although more experienced, again didn’t seem to be interested to get into my brother’s death. It was like pulling teeth where I had to initiate the conversation and it felt frustrating. It lasted 4 sessions.

Nothing clicked. I kept asking for trauma based therapy. But nothing came my way.

In-between the months I went back to The Listening Place on and off.

 

COUNSELOR #11 – End of 2018

The third and last Therapist that Pret financed came when the Head of HR started to warn me about potential dismissal. This was in the middle of the gaslight situation with the Development Manager Pret used to manipulate me. I explain fully in below interview. But I was in such a mental state where I was so blinded, manipulated and neurotic that I firmly begged Pret to give me a chance, while I was actually the one who should have gone to court much sooner. They twisted things so well that I felt I was in the wrong. So, the Head of HR pretending to be once again so terribly helpful, arranged for this last Therapist.

This Therapist was the first Counselor to mention that the Development Manager acted abusively and that she isn’t a proper Therapist when she acts like she did. He said to me that as a Counselor he isn’t supposed to give his opinion, but in this regards he saw a lot of wrongdoing by Pret and the danger of an abusive Therapist’s behaviour. I even agreed, but by then I was so eaten up with guilt, shame and felt like a complete failure in all aspects, fully emerged in confusion. I was and am still coming to terms about my brother and the added hell in Pret. This time I finished the sessions, as I felt he was competent and understood a lot of what I was going through. He was also the Therapist who after hearing my story with all the emailing, said that “people in bereavement do the strangest things”. He had a lot of emotional intelligence and understanding.

 

COUNSELOR #12 – 2017 / 2018

I kept going back to my doctor and now they started realizing that I need something serious and long term. By now I am mentally broken down so much, still coming to terms about my brother and with the added trauma of the systemic bullying I was going through like in a mental war-zone. Also my father was found on the floor in his apartment and put into an induced coma and a whole new set of a nightmare started.

I was put on a waiting list for long-term therapy and had two assessments with a Psychologist, one in December 2017 before I lost my job, and the second in January 2018 after I lost my job and my dad in hospital in Germany, after his three week coma as a result of a stroke. He died in March 2018 and the whole thing of nightmares started again like a never ending Twilight Zone.

At the second assessment in January 2018 I was offered a twelve week group therapy introductory course with a relatively new therapy form called Mentalization Based Treatment (MBT). A little taken aback at the esoteric sounding name, I was explained what it is and was relieved to be offered 12 sessions straight away. As I had a good experience with the 3 session CBT group the year before, I finally felt hope!

But it didn’t stop there, it was getting even better! The Psychologist explained that after the 12 group sessions which was an introductory course to MBT and a way for the group to get to know each other, that after the 12 sessions there would be a few months break. And then after the break this same group of about 8 – 10 people would start 18 MONTHS sessions of the main therapy!

 

I felt like I won the lottery!!!!!

 

But it didn’t stop there!!

This would be TWICE a week for 18 months, once a week in a group setting, and the second session one on one with the Therapist. The group sessions are held by two therapists, one which is a Psychiatrist and the other a Psychologist!

I thought this must be an intense therapy that it is that long and held by two therapists. It took THAT long for the NHS to finally put me on a long-term program like this.

In September 2018 the first introductory group sessions started. We were instructed to NOT talk about our personal issues, which was weird and even my friends asked why I was there then, if I couldn’t talk about my trauma. But since this was an introductory course and we were told that the main sessions are then for us to share, I thought nothing further of it.

In the 6th of the 12 sessions the Psychologist dropped a bomb! She asked us how we felt with the therapy program and wanted to do stock count half way through the introductory phase and inquired how we felt so far. But then she mentioned almost casually, and yet in hindsight it was completely calculated, after we each shared how we felt with the therapy and group she said, “I want to stress that the main 18 months sessions will be video recorded” ….

Sorry what??!!

In shock and disbelief we looked around and started to ask what for! I noticed that whole time even before they dropped the bomb, the Psychiatrist who was mainly quiet didn’t look me in the eyes a lot when she spoke to us. I remember even thinking that and assumed maybe I have one of my angry looks, as people sometimes tell me I look so serious. Well after all the forced smiles in Pret and what happened in the last 4 years, sorry, in my private time I choose a face that suits ME, not anyone else! Look elsewhere if you don’t like the looks of my face!

We were explained that they use video to look and analyze “frame by frame” at what is and what is NOT being said. Yet, MBT in a nutshell is all about AVOIDING assumptions and learning to ask and explain emotions. It slowly dawned on me that the Psychologist who mainly talked was in TRAINING, with the Psychiatrist being the supervisor, saying a few things in-between, and we were like guinea pigs here. They would look at the video material afterwards to learn the therapy. We were assured that the videos of the group and individual one on one sessions would be deleted “after a few weeks”, but nothing was tangible and clear! It was all very vague!

Me and another guy got up and left.

I researched this at home later and found that it is becoming increasingly common practice to video therapy sessions, especially MBT. What I did NOT realize, is that I could have just declined consent and continued the therapy. But without them saying it, they left us in the assumption that we either consent to video filming and are part of the therapy, or we cannot participate! They never gave us clear information that we can decline consent and they cannot force us either way.

After a phone call with the Psychologist, whom I believe was in training, I stopped the therapy AGAIN and filed a formal complaint with the NHS. I also would have discontinued even without the video as I lost trust and confidence in the Therapists. What else are they not telling us, I thought.

My main points were that we were never told this in out INITIAL assessment ONE YEAR before. I wasted 1 year on the waiting list which I could have used for alternative therapy OR if I had the full and transparent information, I could have declined and they would have had to continue without videoing the sessions.

I also said that I felt this was calculated to give us this VITAL info, which involves data protection, half way through the 12 week intro sessions so that it would be much harder for us to decide against it as we would have gotten used to the group and therapy. All of us were not private patients, we had no choice and grabbed every opportunity of help, and I felt strongly that they took advantage of this. I even still feel like people who cannot afford a private therapist are used as guinea pigs for therapy training while they would never do that with paying private clients!

I felt used as a “poor” NHS patient for the education of therapists who then use this for paying “rich” patients.

Except my “conspiracy” theories that wasn’t responded to, all my 4 page points were fully upheld by the NHS complaints department, which led to the therapy NOT being filmed.

But here I was again, raising hell and others benefit from it while I am now back to square one on yet another waiting list! You’re welcome y’all!

The leading Psychologist who looks over the program and the Therapists held an appointment with me after I refused to have an appointment with the Psychologist who dropped the bomb of videoing. But this “chief” Psychologist seemed to have been ticked off with me as I ruined his program to film sessions, because he started the appointment by saying he has only 30 minutes and seemed to rush. He offered me a choice of two programs, one would be a long waiting list again for a long-term therapy, or as an alternative to cut the waiting time, I could volunteer in the nearby hospital! So, basically if you don’t want to wait for the proper therapy, you can just go to the hospital and do volunteer work where there are professionals to talk to if I needed to! If I chose the hospital volunteer scenario, I would lose the therapy opportunity if I didn’t want to wait. I thought he was joking! And again, I felt like a carrot was dangled in front of me and I felt manipulated, to be forced between not waiting long and being cheated out of real long-term help if I skip the waiting period.

Those two options didn’t even match! It wasn’t an option between one type of therapy and another type of therapy like I was given a choice before. It was a choice between long-term therapy after a long wait – OR – volunteer in a hospital if I didn’t want to wait. WTF! It actually felt like he wanted me to quit the idea of therapy and used the waiting time-carrot. He seemed ticked off as I ruined his video project with my successful formal NHS complaint! I emailed him later that I felt he was cross with me and now wants to push me to the side to do volunteer work in hospital where there would also be some doctors if I had a crisis and needed help!! I couldn’t believe it!

He was very patronizing and I really felt he was pissed off and even gaslighting me to some extend. When I emailed him, he quickly diverted and said that he would not speak about my concerns via email and that I raised serious allegations. He further wrote that he would be happy to see me in person and speak about it. I replied that since he thinks that I raise serious issues, I’d like to keep our correspondence in writing (and in my thoughts not be lured away into a “he said / she said” scenario).

One decision I made after the whole Pret nightmare is to trust my gut again! And in this case with this chief Psychologist, I trust my gut and don’t trust him. Sorry, but I’m not sorry. Life is too short to be continuously bull shitted!

I refused to see him in a new appointment, because for one, there are many mistakes, even missing information in my medical file which I had to send evidence in of corrections to be added. For example one hospital assessment where I went suicidal, the doctor assessing me wrote that I was “unwilling to received help from Maytree”!!! And two, I didn’t trust him after the whole video thing and his patronizing way.

Maytree advised me to come back to them once I didn’t drink for 8 weeks. Sure, friends said to me to just lie and say that I didn’t drink for 8 weeks so they would take me in. But I can’t do that. If something is based on a lie, it won’t be effective. If I seek help, I want to do it in a proper way, otherwise I would always feel I missed something because I lied about something. So I applied for my files from Maytree and The Listening Place with all the dates I was in contact with them, which are always dates where I initiated contact as these services never initiate contact.

Also, BOTH Maytree and TLP have written 150% correct information to the T! They written down brief thoughts on each session or phone conversations and what I spoke about. I even got paranoid thinking if they recorded the sessions without my knowledge, because the information they entered was absolutely correct!! But I trust that they wouldn’t secretly record. But it is strange that two VOLUNTEER charities make correct and professional data entry, while almost every NHS staff either entered wrong info or left vital information out!

If anyone from the NHS is reading this, please help me understand here, and please don’t come with the NHS cuts! Volunteer based services are stretched as well, and they are not even paid! Maybe it is just their passion that makes them work efficiently, with care and transparency. And I fed that back to Maytree and TLP with great appreciation for their attention to detail!

I felt that the doctors from the NHS want to cover themselves, so in case I take my life, they would say that they tried to suggest help, but I was “unwilling” to receive help, while in reality I went from service to service, to hospital, even tried to get locked up with the Police because I feared my self and wasn’t sure at times if I survived to the next day.

And this is what I can advise anyone who seeks help from medical services, be it from a charity or their respective country’s medical services, I can advise everyone to always apply for your file after a period of time when your life has quieten down a bit. in Europe under the new GDPR laws we have great advantage to access what is held about us. Apply for your file and read carefully if ALL information is correct! If not, gather evidence and ADD it to the file. In my case, they refused to delete the incorrect info, but offered to add next to every incorrect info the correct info I updated them with.

There were other instances where for example an NHS Psychiatric Nurse, who assessed me after I had a mental crisis, just closed my file and said to my doctor he can’t get a hold of me, therefore he will close my case! And yet THE DAY when he emailed this to my doctor that he can’t get a hold of me was THE DAY my father died and I went to the Mental Health Club where I bumped into him. We briefly spoke, I said that my father died and that I am in the middle of raising a Tribunal claim against Pret. He offered me to look up some free advice help and emailed me later THAT DAY with some links to advocate sites! A few minutes later he emailed my doctor saying he can’t get a hold of me, so he has to close my case! My doctor printed out the email because I kept saying that I saw him several times for assessment as I was suicidal and bumped into him on the day my dad died.

And another Psychiatric Nurse who assessed me after my night at the Police station, she left some vital information out. So, I am in disbelief and in a neurotic conspiracy type thinking WHY on earth NHS staff not only lie, but keep writing incorrect notes about me, while TWO charities wrote everything correctly! What’s going on?!

And as I write this, I have already submitted the correct information with all the evidence from various services. I did this also with the help of POhWER that helps patients with NHS complaints as a kind of back-up, so the clients are not alone, and the NHS people cannot mess with a lone and vulnerable person raising issues. I may be well worded, but I’m a mess inside!

And all this coupled with what the Development Manager from Pret A Manger did who is also a Hypnotherapy with the National Hypnotherapy Society, that refused to see through the formal complaint I raised with them. I more and more believe that therapies are a load of horse dung and tools to manipulate vulnerable people! I more and more believe this all is not real and just another money making machine!

Now I am again on a waiting list and don’t even know for what! But I have this strong sense, and some may call it “conspiracy theory”, that when you are relying solely on the NHS, because you have no money to choose your own therapist, you are really used as a guinea pig, as you have no choice but to take anything and everything they offer you. I haven’t even been diagnosed after 4 years of my Therapy odyssey! How can this even be?!

Deep down inside I have lost faith and all hope that I will receive help. In Germany I would have by now probably finished trauma based therapy as the health system is very good. I continue in this mental health desert. At least I don’t drink as much anymore, but when I do, I continue to have these “flip outs” where I lash out at wonderful people who have done nothing wrong, but in my drunken traumatized mind they turn to monsters who are out to get me! And I am desperate for help, but I have lost hope and have no confidence in the NHS when it comes to mental health services.

A friend in Germany who is a family counselor once said to me that I should maybe just stop all this therapy search and find a new hobby!! She didn’t say it quite as blunt as I write and it was in German, but it showed me that even she as a Family Therapist doesn’t know what helps. This whole therapy thing is bogus! And I used to have hobbies and was very active, but nothing much interests me anymore. My Pret writings is to expose and turn the tales on them in my way.

And if any “hobby” psychologist or even real Therapist is reading this, forget contacting me, I am not interested in anyone playing saviour or trying to help. I was searching early on especially in 2015 and 2016 on bereavement groups. I met a Psychotherapist once in a Meetup.com group, where people who experienced trauma met weekly to just chat, have a drink or a meal. The Psychotherapist started the group and I even asked him why he is doing this? Of course the answer was to help! And weeks later he offered me a one-off session for half prize and my alarm bells went on. I never went back to the social meeting and later found he was gone from the Meetup page. I never noted down his name, but he surely was dodgy.

So, any Therapist reading this, I am happy for your input on the NHS, but I am not interested in any “therapy”. I do this the proper way via the NHS or Charities that are registered and accountable to their respective Counseling Bodies.

I can also add any organization regarding suicide, or other mental health support. These can be left in the comments section or via my contact page. But those have to be registered and accountable.

In hindsight I think I approached the mental health system from a German perspective, as in Germany the health system in general is really good. Bereavement care is almost immediate and for a prolonged time. Trauma therapies are better available, even if having to endure waiting lists etc. So, I’m not sure if my mentality is still too German. But I certainly went to town trying to get help. And maybe it’s not what I need.

Thank you for reading my mess with the mental health system.

 


 

I worked at Pret A Manger for almost 10 years and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather starve and speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
I also tell my story for the first time verbally in this >>>
podcast interview based in California, and wrote an article in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.

Interview:

 

©2019 expret.org

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.

©2017 – Present: expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

A Gag Order on Grief

 

I listened to a podcast on grief and how in this society death, dying and grief are taboo and people suffer in silence. In my own term I find that grief is silenced to death! It’s a blunt yet gentle podcast called Grief Out Loud.

In this particular episode “Inviting Grief Out Of The Whisper Corner – Megan Devine” the interviewee mentions that there’s such a “gag order on grief” in this culture, which I found a perfect description on how this society deals with grief and grieving people.

Full eposiode:

 

Another “loud” group, The Good Grief Project, was started by grieving couple Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds, who lost their 22 year old son Josh in a road accident on his trip in Vietnam. They interviewed other grieving parents and in making documentaries toured UK cinemas last year. In a London cinema they had a Q&A they do at the end of the screening, and Jimmy Edmonds said something striking after an audience member mentioned their struggle with loneliness in their grieving process. Jimmy said that in Victorian times it was common and completely normal to talk about death, dying and grief, but it was taboo to talk about sex, and how today it is the complete opposite.

I personally am tired of being swamped with sex images, sex talk, sex this, sex that… and THE inevitable that WILL come to ALL of us, Death, dying and grief is avoided like the pest! And when a loss finally hits us, we hang on a string fighting for life itself as we can’t cope with the onslaught of grief and shock! We were never taught about death and grief being PART of LIFE! We avoided it, we silence it to death, we treat it as if it is an evil to be shunned!

My own grief was very loud from the get go because of how my brother’s death was communicated, was unclear and was handled! Within weeks and after his funeral, flying back and forth, running errands, taking care of family, but still forced to work, I very quickly went to my doctor. I ask for help early on with referral to counseling, as I knew immediately this was too much to handle on my own or just with friends. It was too big for friends as well of course who soon withdrew. I had to hold it up for my family, remained strong until I broke. And we all went lost, each in our journey. And as I acquainted myself to loss and shock after shock, I buried my dad 3 years after my brother.

What I went through at work in Pret A Manger, I write about extensively on this blog and don’t want to go into, except to say for any new reader that I was bullied during bereavement, which I speak about in detail in the audio player at the bottom of this page and all over my website. But I don’t want to get into this too much in this blog entry here, and want to concentrate on the “gag order on grief” that Megan Devine so poignantly describes.

With everything that unfolded with my brother’s death and the added nightmare at work, my grief was 95% pure anger! I went into a mix of autopilot, functioning like a machine I was conditioned in for so long, the anger turned inward as I felt a huge burden of guilt to have let my brother down. And yet I was crying out for help in all the places from mental health institutions, friends, work, online bereavement groups … everywhere I went I mostly met a brick wall of silence or helplessness, and being passed on to another organization. The online bereavement groups frustrated me because all of them were widows who, many of them lost their partners 10, 20 years ago. But here I was having learned about my brother’s death weeks before and had to listen to widow’s experiences. With all the added stress at work, I went on an emailing-spree like a mad-man goes on a shooting-spree. No-one’s fault.

All the complications that grief and loss brings I went into head first, full force! I was like a headless chicken running around trying to make sense of what happened and all the added turmoil at work. A Twilight Zone opened up, like I was dropped in a land full of aliens and stumbled through a mental war zone, trying to figure out who my ally was. “Enemies” popped up at work. And in a fog I tried to navigate through a mine field where my presence became an inconvenience for my superiors. There was no friendly fire, no accidental shot, there was real ambush and the fight for survival in a toxic work environment.

Workplace bullying is already a hostile attack on ones dignity, but going through this during grief, I can only say that in the beginning ignorance was bliss! As I was in shock and turmoil, and even though I felt early on I was targeted, I kept going while mixing it up, blaming my turmoil on my grief.

My friends became overwhelmed and I don’t blame them. I worked in Pret surrounded by food with daily free food allowance, but lost 25kg in the first 6 months of bereavement. I was overweight but lost 35 – 40kg within a year, as I couldn’t eat and only forced myself half a baguette or one banana a day. I stood on my feet for 6 – 10 hours a day and went for walks hours after work. I couldn’t stop walking, like I was looking for my brother or trying to escape the mine field. I don’t know how I survived, but I felt “intoxicated” with adrenaline to get to the bottom of what happened and punished myself with questions of why I let my brother down!

Friends were at a loss, and all I always tried to say to people: You can’t and shan’t fix things! But please also don’t be scarce! You don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, so let’s do the unknown together… But neither of us could.

It’s just in other words how Megan Devine in above episode says:

»I feel like I’m more able to have no answers for things than I used to be. I like to believe that I’ve always been pretty good at holding space for whatever is going on for somebody, both as a friend and [professionally]. What’s different in my own grief [and others’] is, I’m okay to have no response at all other than my presence.«

In their own helplessness some blamed me, and I had to come up with my own empathy for my friends and understanding for a multi-million pound company! One thought always came to mind early on, when I tried to function as if nothing happened, I always thought in my utter loss and shock, “If in grief, comfort your friends”. But I still don’t know how to do that.

Death will come to all of us. Grief already has. And everyone grieves differently and in different times, length and depth, but whatever everyone’s coping mechanism or culture may be, grief cannot be silenced and my survival is to be loud.

 

»Unquiet Grief«

The wind does blow
today my bro

A few small drops
of rain

I’ll never have
such a brother again

In a cold grave
his ashes remain

I’d do as much
for my true blood
as any sibling may

I’ll sit and mourn
all at his thought
Forever and a day

The months and all these days
‘been rough
the dead began
to speak

Oh, who sits weeping
at the thought of me
and will not
let me sleep

It’s me my brother
who weeps at your fate
and will not let you sleep

I crave one hint
of what occurred to you
and that is all I seek

You crave one hint
of what occurred to me
the truth may be
hefty strong

If you’ve one hint from my
cold grave, sis
your time may not
be long

I ponder and wander to the
past so green
and go where we used to play

The finest mem’ry
that has ever been
is broken down to clay

My live has turned to dust
my kin
so will our hearts decay

So make yourself
content, little sis
till God calls you away

— poetrasblok.com

 

In memory of my big brother Thomas

Text: “Unquiet Grave” originated in the 1400s
Adapted “Unquiet Grief”: poetrasblok.com
Music: Kris Drever / LAU

 


 

Interview:

©2019 poetrasblok.com

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.

©2017 – Present: expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

ACAS Guide to Bereavement at Work

 

A guide I have passed on to Pret A Manger since May 2015 when I first approached HR to make suggestions after my then line manager had me on prolonged 5 months late shifts and refused to rotate my shifts like it was before I became bereaved.

I approached HR, not to raise grievances or complain but to just bring ideas and suggestions. I never imagined that approaching HR would put a target on my back.

I speak extensively about my ordeal with Pret on my blog and podcast interview.

man-320273__340

 

 

I passed the ACAS Guide to Bereavement at the Workplace to HR and several different managers, area managers and anyone in a responsible position between 2015 and 2017. But of course apart from sweet-talk and the horrendous treatment that followed, lead from the very top, this guide was not taken into consideration. If this is now in Pret’s sight, than certainly after I left Pret.

I will keep it short as people who are really interested in this can read the guide and download the PDF file that ACAS has posted in partnership with Cruse Bereavement Care, the largest bereavement short-term support charity in the UK that I visited early on in my bereavement as well.

I just want to point out some things concerning bullying during bereavement and how my situation became 10 times worse than I could have ever anticipated even could happen to people who go through grief and trauma.

This will always be on Pret’s resume as well as how they dealt, or rather how they did NOT deal with TWO customer deaths, and why in this profit driven Western society there is such a strong resistance and refusal to supporting people in grief and tragedy. Once tragedy hits an employee they frankly become an inconvenience as companies want “robots” that function non-stop for the millions the top is gaining.

That’s why I have come to start disliking the term “workforce” as this sounds like an army, a factory of robots having to function in a modern-day slavery setting, under the pretense of “productivity” and “buzz” and “fun”.

 

Excerpts from the ACAS Guide on Bullying during Bereavement
on pages 11 & 12

~~~~~~~~~~

ACAS:

»Avoiding discrimination and addressing bullying

Employers should ensure their employees who are likely to be affected by the disability are able to recognise it, especially when performance or absence of a bereaved employee becomes unacceptable over the longer term for no other apparent reason.«

~~~~~~~~~~

This versus my experience of being targeted and penalized for not smiling during customer service even when I asked, almost begged to work in the kitchen for a while when I started to tear up on the shop floor. More on the Emotional Labour in this blog entry and the “brutality” of what Pret expects, no matter what.

 

09 Brutal Nightmare

Only one of >>> several comments on YouTube

 

~~~~~~~~~~

ACAS:

»Addressing Bullying

Bullying is defined as unwanted behaviour or conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual. If the bullying is related to a protected characteristic then it is harassment.

Managing bereavement in the workplace

Employers should be alert to inappropriate behaviour following bereavement. Absence through bereavement can place burdens on co-workers and line managers alike who may pressurise (inadvertently or otherwise) or bully a bereaved employee into returning to work or performing their duties to the same level as they did before the death. The intentions of the bully do not matter – what is important is the impact that the behaviour has on the employee who is being bullied.

For example:
Rouji works on a telephone helpline and recently lost her mother. On her return from bereavement leave she is finding it hard to cope at work: she is struggling to reach her targets for calls answered and sometimes leaves the room visibly upset. Brandon, the manager, notices that the staff are unhappy at what they see as “carrying Rouji”, an attitude reinforced by the vocal views of her supervisor who has been overheard saying “she should get a grip, when my mother died, I found work a relief, look at the problems she is causing us.”Rouji has noticed the shaking heads of colleagues and their “tuts” when she leaves the room and this is adding to her distress. Although Brandon recognises the burden on the team, the company has a policy of not tolerating bullying and harassment. Brandon tells the supervisor to stop this behaviour and let it be known that staff may face disciplinary action if this unwanted behaviour continues. At the same time he sees if a temporary worker can be deployed until Rouji is able to reach her performance targets.«

~~~~~~~~~~

The guide goes on to cover a variety of issues regarding paid leave, long-term or reoccurring effects of grief etc. I just concentrate mainly on the subject of bullying here as this involved even Pret’s HR, Head Quarters, Clive Schlee CEO as this is systemic and no surprise anymore, why I went from management to management that had no policy in place to protect me or bereaved employees in general.

A People Business Partner (PBP) from HR in a grievance appeal’s hearing that I raised even admitted that there was another employee, an assistant manager who was bereaved and also mistreated at work, but that she was “bitter”. He foolishly compared me with her as if we were bitter because we raised grievances of wrongdoing. I emailed this PBP later that day in anger saying that this AM is not bitter, but in a lot of pain, as I related to her nightmare.

A few months after this hearing and what the PBP told me in that hearing, I learned that an AM died by suicide. I cannot proof that this is the same person, but I do not believe in coincidences anymore with Pret, especially after they involved a Development Manager from HQ who supposedly also had a brother who died in his flat, like my brother died in his flat… But I don’t believe this anymore. Weeks later after our contact I learned that she is also a Hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner, and the more hidnsight I have and keep talking about this, the more I don’t believe that she had a brother, even while I see some posts on her facebook page regarding her brother in 2016 before I knew her.

I tell my story verbally for the first time on a podcast here below in the audio player. I also collected many staff reviews from outside pages like Glassdoor, Indeed, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook etc. and combined them unto one page as Pret Staff Complaints.

I am so loud because I almost lost my life and if I alsmost ended my life, an assistant manager did, how many more are there. If Pret can hide two customer deaths under the carpet, how many work-related staff suicides or attempted suicides are there?

 

“Penalized for calling out for a funeral”

2018-11-01 Funeral

Former Barista, New York

 

Avoid AM

Former Assistant Manager, London

 

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I can only urge any company, large or small to please have a look at this guide from ACAS. It is only a guide to which companies can draft their own policy from this blueprint that ACAS provides in partnership with Cruse. I survived systemic workplace bullying in a company that is very efficient in marketing and PR portraying themselves to be an ethical and caring company.

I have a different story…

 


 

I worked at Pret A Manger for almost 10 years and survived workplace bullying that involved the top leadership and HQ. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post. Thank you for reading.

 

©2019 expret.org

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.

©2017 – Present: poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org, LateNightGirl.page.tl unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

 

Whatever you do, How little you know

 

If your friend, family member, colleague, employee, acquaintance… loses someone, don’t leave them alone. You will not know what to do, and that is ok. Just don’t leave them alone, or even worse tell them it’s their fault they are so down. They are lost and don’t know what to do. They feel already the guilt of loss and being a burden.

And stay away from Pret A Manger and any company that hurt people, using them for PR while bullying those who go through tragedy. Don’t believe their facade and psychology. They can afford companies who manipulate with wordings to “hypnotize” the public for profit. And the public wants to believe the facade. I know Pret since 10 years and gave them the benefit of the doubt too much (that only is my fault). Pret does not care for people, except themselves and whoever is in their elite group who play their games. As long as you play their game, you are in their group.

Most people don’t play games and are just used, and exploited, and lied to. Pret A Manger is a very dishonest company. Support the small independent businesses, even if you have to walk, drive extra to get to them. We all enable those careless companies because we are not willing to change our habits.

They even did nothing after customers died and multiple warnings to label their products properly until it became public. If that doesn’t tell people how Pret really is, than I don’t know.

The blogger community is the best social media among all social media platforms; solid, thoughtful, creative.

I’ve given it all, I told my story, if people care to know or not is not my concern. Pret doesn’t even respond on Twitter to my open confrontation. All they do is get Twitter to “shadow ban” me. Pathetic! I passed on the written evidence to people. I’ve given it my best. Stand up for yourself and those who can’t. Look closer, if a profit-driven company looks too good to be true, look behind the facade. Businesses can afford to employ companies to write fake reviews, look at the little people who stand up against a giant. Join a Union and stand up for yourself. I was too naive and traumatized and gave Pret the benefit of the doubt too much.

But I have written it all down.

Thank you for reading. Happy 2019.

 

 

pexels-photo-212324

 

 

©2019 poetrasblok.com

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2019 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

Digging Out an Older Blog Entry

 

As Anti-Bullying week has come to an end last Friday I remembered an older blog entry I made. I wrote the below post in May 2016 on another blog site where I mainly posted poems for/about my brother and just scratched on what I went through in Pret, without naming Pret at the time as I do now on this site. But when I was going through the mixed horror of my brother’s death added with the bullying in Pret, this particular time was like a transition period where my trauma worsened, but I didn’t realize it then.

At that time I rather felt that everything in Pret would settle for me and I could concentrate on coming to terms about my brother’s death. I always felt that my situation wasn’t dealt with properly, but I didn’t realize how much I was played and manipulated via dodgy grievance hearings. One area manager who was very slick held a grievance appeals hearing against a line manager who openly bullied me (shouting, blaming, excluding etc.) under the main catalyst who was his boss and the guidance of HR.

In the hearing she held she asked me what my “definition of bullying is”. At that time I was utterly distraught and fell for this trap to think I wasn’t bullied. In hindsight I’d answer this “question” with a question of what her definition of bullshit is! It was also the time when I applied for and received my file, but at the time I just briefly looked through it vaguely until months later when I meticulously sieved through every word on every page and went into deeper turmoil that I explain in “Not Quite a Beautiful Mind“.

Now, looking back, having been in deep darkness, confused, traumatized, holding on and trying to escape through writing, I am grateful to have given Pret the benefit of the doubt so much to be able to say, what a corrupt and toxic company behind a friendly facade and under the current leadership of Clive Schlee and HR Pret A Manger is.

 


 

May 2016 Blog post (I added the links from the old blog entry):

 

Definition of Bullying

 

Once on a school trip to the seaside of Western France, six of us girls planned to share a room in the youth hostel we were booked in. On the first night after dinner and having settled in, I found myself alone with one of the girls in the big room, while the other four girls spontaneously moved out again and into a vacant 4-bedded room together.

It didn’t take me long to understand what was happening. The girl who was “stuck” with me (or I with her) in the 6-bedded room was the typical person to not have been cool enough to share a room with. There was even talk about her already back home at a school-BBQ before the trip and how they would give her the trip of her life. She was typically uncool, by the book at that time; ginger hair, thick glasses, long front teeth, not wearing the trendiest clothes… The perfect uncool kid to be “avoided with” or not be around.

She (I’ll give her the name “Ginger”) was someone who didn’t fit into the norm, nothing more, nothing less. The usual stuff. I didn’t fit in either, not for “temperature” reasons, but because I was in a sphere of my own.

So, we just had more space and more peace. I didn’t like the situation because I wasn’t invited  by the four “cool” girls, but I didn’t mind either because I never liked this kind of group dynamic. Nothing against groups as long as they are inclusive, accepting, supportive, more than just tolerant/tolerating. But tolerance would have been the bare minimum anyone could ask for if individuals in a group have neither strength nor courage for anything beyond that.

“The soul selects her own society, then shuts the door to divine majority. Present no more.”

— Emily Dickinson
Not having been particularly “cool” myself, and not really bothered if I was or not, I didn’t care to impress a group or be intimidated by a “mob” of freezers. I tend to select my own society.

 

The first of the five or six mornings we were there, I woke up turning around in my bed towards the door. From the sun beams that were shining through the windows, I could see something shimmering on the floor in front of the bed of my room mate. I got up, went to see what it was and saw it was a puddle of fluid, it was obvious from the stench that it was urine left there close to Ginger’s bed, with her still asleep. If she would have had to get up at night for the toilet, she most certainly would have stepped into it.

I pondered over this “pond” and was just perplexed on how it got there or worse, why someone would do this and how we both didn’t wake up noticing this invasion of our dignity. We cleaned it up later, pretending something weird spilled here somehow. I don’t know, I didn’t know what to think or say. Whatever we were thinking, not sure. To this day I don’t know why I didn’t get a teacher immediately and clean it up before she woke up. Maybe I was too perplexed, offended, embarrassed… Hopefully she thought I was the target or us both together; wishful thinking on my part. She was just always very quiet. I will never know if or what she realized was going on.

I didn’t know what to do, if I should go to a teacher or ask around why someone would do this. But going to a teacher or trying to find out who the “donor” of this mess was, might have just encouraged more of this. So I left it, assuming it was a one-off, never having seen any “pranks” like this on previous school trips.

As the days of the trip went on, we took a bus ride through the region. I was sitting in the back of the bus, one or two rows in front of the group of girls, now joined by the boys, and overheard them speak about how they want to cut Ginger’s hair at night. I remember freezing in my seat and feeling my blood disappear from my head with a tingling sensation in my face, going into panic-mode. I had two seats to myself since the bus was roughly half filled, as not the whole class went on this trip but just about two dozen of us. Everyone, except for the group and some couples, would sit generously in two seats, getting a little privacy away from the shared rooms in the hostel.
My thoughts started racing on what to do, since the “pee” situation I knew they would go through with whatever they planned. They must have felt secure that I was just a dumb bystander who’s “job” it was to console Ginger in the aftermath of whatever would happen to her. As if it was some kind of calling in life for her to be bullied and my calling was to just stroke her head, comforting her, oh well poor poor Ginger, c’est la vie.

My heart and my mind went into overdrive with the dilemma of not wanting to get into trouble with the cool crew, but also not wanting to allow something disgusting like this to happen to a girl, who’s only fault it was to not fit in.

Society-selecting time again!

 

Later that day before dinner time at the hostel, I couldn’t think straight, never mentioning any of this to Ginger or anyone. I was nervous before the meal, heart pouncing, thoughts pacing back and forth when I decided to speak up. I approached the room where the group always huddled together, prayed under my breath, knocked on the door and was invited in. I went straight to the ring leader girl and said sharply (with my limbs like jelly and my heart beating to my throat!) “If anything happens to Ginger, you will be the first to regret it!”. She looked perplexed, starring at me and then around the room, and laughing with the group asked if I was insane or what!? I repeated the sentence and just left the room shaking inside. I went straight to the room of one of the teachers, telling the whole story to just get this sorted. I guess some would call me a “Drama Queen”, but bullying is not just a drama, it’s a cowardly disgrace and a shame.
The next day Ginger had her birthday, and the majority of the kids congratulated her, even if half-hearted by most, including some of the cool, “strong” and marvelous group. Nothing ever happened to the uncool girl anymore. And on the eve of our return back home, Ginger and I sat outside for a smoke while there was an improvised “Disco” going on inside for our last night of the trip.

To this day it’s just a guess if Ginger knew what was going on, or if she repressed the situation to just avoid the pain of it. We never spoke about it and she never seemed at a shock, just rather quiet and speaking about nothing really. Deep down I felt of course she knows. But my pretense might have matched hers equally, just so we can make that day. We just had a good smoke and a meaningless chat, but worth our while.

Nothing further happened as the teachers had an eye on it now, after my shivering confrontation with the group’s leader. But I meant what I said, even while shaking inside my boots. And I rather took the risk of being bullied myself, suffering the consequences, than having to watch in silence how a person is being targeted just because she didn’t fit in to whatever the majority felt was the(ir) norm, or to release the burden of their own meaningless existence.

Even with the threat of any more nightly “adventures” in our room, I slept well at nights. I’d rather be bullied or be with those who are, then being cozy with a bully.

I wondered at times throughout the years, and even now, what has become of Ginger. While writing this experience down, I looked up a digitalized photo of her with some of the bullies on the France trip. I do hope this wallflower became a bouquet, no matter if it fits into anyone’s perception of cool or beauty, but whom those bullies would not recognize today, because they are too busy and messed up in their own journey to fit in.

I never thought I would write this story down and after having scanned over a thousand photos recently into my computer from all the years of my life, even before I was born, then shredding the majority of it to get rid of clutter in my flat. I never scanned in the photos of the bullies, except when “Ginger” was on them, but just threw them away without digitalizing them. Don’t know if I’d regret it one day since even the bad stuff is part of our lives, but I have no room for those bullies on my computer. No more “beds” available.

 

Depression & Support pexels-photo-551594

 

I have not been bullied as a kid, except the typical teasing we all go through. But I cannot remember ever having been bullied as a kid in school. But I never would have imagined that I would be bullied as an adult.

What was my weakness? The thought that our lives are final on this earth? The inconvenience of my grief? That I didn’t “function” at times as expected? That I didn’t kiss anyone’s association or agenda? That I looked strong, but in reality was completely broken while on autopilot? That I spoiled someone’s perception of strength? That I reminded them of their own mortality and weakness?

In hindsight, please, someone tell me?

All I know is that I have been bullied! No more formal grievances needed. If the catalyst, the main bully is in leadership above you, you have no chance unless you have the strength to see it through. I’m sorry my brother’s death got in their way. He won’t do that again!

 

Sometimes people are bullied not because they are uncool in the perception of a mob, but because they may come across too strong. Anything that does not fit into the “norm” of the (insecure) majority might just be the perfect target. I don’t know. People in a group, in a mob do things that they would never do when alone. But unfortunately 1 single person, who is in the position of power or leadership, can influence a group who wants to please their leader/boss, and pull the carpet from under someone else’s feet.

It takes only 1 person, 1 leader to influence their sub-ordinance to either pull that carpet or provide a safe place for an individual or minority. Everything stands and falls with leadership. If a leader won’t allow bullying to happen, it won’t! If a leader closes their eyes, or worse, is the main catalyst of bullying, then God help us.

I understood this in my late teens/early 20s already, that’s why I went straight to the leader to make clear that she is responsible to set the tone of the group. But I was too scared and got backup by the teacher, the higher “leader” of the group. If telling on others is what it takes, then that’s what it takes.

It is horrendously easy to be within a group siding against one person, than to stand up within that group, reaching out against the decision of the majority and their leader for the protection and support of that one person. If we realize it or not, we constantly “select our own society”, depending on how strong we feel towards moral issues, health, justice, principles. We constantly make our choices and will choose until our last day. I have chosen wrong and right many times myself in different situations, but if I make up my mind that one person or a minority needs to be protected, especially while going through tragedy, than I hope my mind is made up regardless of the consequences. And after a while, if I manage to make it through in one piece, I sleep well at nights.

 

this question might really be asking how to avoid being made corporately responsible for those who are in the group they themself represent.

It is beyond me that a powerful group of professionals still try to protect each other without realizing how “small” I am and how simple I am reached without trickery. If we “manage” by fear, that’s all we do: fear!

All I hoped for was just for someone to not be afraid of me, for someone to just have a coffee with me asking how my day was and complain about the weather or whatever. The way my former boss “Cat” did briefly before leaving too soon. I am nobody, just broken, scared, loud, angry, nothing more to be afraid of, and nothing less to be stepped upon. I would have wished for some protection. But better late than never.

 

Now, I like to leave each day on a positive note. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with depression, other times I’m exhausted from the day, another time just chilled and content. I don’t dare to aim for happiness, I’m not there yet. But I don’t want to end a day on a negative note. And yet I still do it so often.

A dear friend recently said to me, “Forgiveness is a powerful thing”, something I did not want to hear, but know she is right. To “for – give”, to give away an experience, a painful event, letting go, is liberating. Even if or because it takes time and pain; falling, getting up, falling again, getting up again… as if I haven’t got enough pain to work through already. But bitterness won’t be the thing I will fall asleep with. And the only shimmering puddle I will wake up to is the dew of a new day, with new chances to look out for those who need a new society to lend them a hand to heal.

 

One thing I often did early on after my brother died, was to walk for hours through London, especially through the busy tourist areas I would usually avoid. There I sought and saw happy faces, little kids eating ice cream and being jolly, and when they cried it was because they didn’t get their ice cream right then and there. Very valid tears for a child; I envied the reason for their tears. And after five minutes the only thing that was crying was the melting ice cream dripping down on their chin, and life was sweet again.

There were glimpses of life in the midst of loss and blackness. I sought the smiles of kids, or the naïve curiosity of tourists, or the clumsy effort of new lovers… All I did was starring at life as it kept moving on and passing by me. There was life in the midst of trauma. At least I was an observer of it, like watching a movie passively, just “existing” without living the scenes I watched, looking for meaning, never mind a happy end. There’s none.

The Trafalgar and the Leicester Square areas and the Southbank have been my home away from home in the early weeks and months of making sense of my brother’s passing. I miss him. And I keep looking for him in my walks.

 

Life is good I want to enjoy it when it comes around.

The smile of a child; the glance of a lover; a little dog licking your face not caring if you’re happy or sad, just caring that you’re there; the courage of your boss; the neighbour’s lending hand; the shoulder of a friend …

May 2016

 


 

I worked at Pret A Manger and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather starve and speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
I also tell my story for the first time verbally in this >>>
podcast interview based in California, and wrote an article in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.

Interview:

 

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Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.

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2. Quote of the Day #63 – Penalize A Funeral

 

colorful-candles-3768442__340

 

The second quote also from NY crushes me, as I have been through this and it almost ended my life. My regular readers know my story, but for new readers the below review of a former NY employee from days ago does not surprise me, even while I tear up when reading this review as it brings back traumatic memories. I was bullied during bereavement, and even while completely traumatized I was still trying to bring suggestions via HR for Pret to have support for bereaved employees in place. But unbeknown to me at the time, and in a complete fogged up state on autopilot, my approaching HR put a target on my back, which I write on my blog extensively.

As I tried to come to terms about my brother’s death and on top of that the turmoil at work, I applied for my file as I wanted to understand what was happening and why? I didn’t realize when I applied for my file under the Data Protection Act 1998, that this also involved emails between HR and managers about me. I assumed my employee file just involved regular notes that a line manager might have made about employees, to pass information on to another line manager when the employee gets transferred or promoted. I had a very difficult manager before my brother died, who would even sabotage me when I tried to transfer away from her shop. I had this thought that she may have written something detrimental about me that made the following managers dis-favourable towards me.

But that wasn’t the case and what I was confronted with, apart from the sheer size of approximately over 1000 pages, which included many repeats, were emails between HR and managers who were stumbling around without clear direction, no steady leadership, no policy on how to support bereaved employees. One email that struck me was from a People Business Partner (PBP) who responded to an email from an HR advisor who was the note taker of my first grievance appeal’s hearing against a line manager who bullied me openly. The HR advisor brought my concerns forward and the PBP even agreed that Pret could improve on supporting bereaved employees. This and other emails often were written to just have a paper trail of supposedly being supportive, anything else was communicated on the phone or in person.

But this HR advisor was the most professional HR person I have come across in Pret. In the hearing she was completely quiet and just took the notes, but I could see in her face that she cared when I described my turmoil with the line manager who bullied me. She cared enough to pass my concerns on to this PBP and in all her dealings with me after the hearing I felt she was extremely professional and cared. I learned later that she left Pret, and I was crushed that all the good people seemed to be leaving. Of course people move on, but with the top leadership of HR I constantly felt with my back against the wall and like in a Twilight Zone.

The email, I added the pink description on who’s who and underlined in yellow:

 

 

2015-10-22 Chris Walsh & Laura re SUPPORT

 

This PBP (#2) several months later was the note taker of an appeal’s hearing I raised against another PBP (#1) who was in the background advising the area manager who targeted me. I raised the grievance based on the evidence of the emails from my file. Of course raising a grievance against anyone from HR, especially a PBP is a waste of time, but I was just out-of-sync trying to go through the right channels to not only improve my situation, but that of all employees. In the appeal’s hearing I confronted this PBP (#2) about the above email, where he agreed that Pret could improve on supporting employees who suffer loss, but he then said that in hindsight he could have made a mistake! For the sake of his colleague PBP (#1), he changed his mind and the game continued… I wrote an open letter to him as well, which was a waste of time as well of course, but this needs to be in the open.

 

Today’s 2nd quote of the day from a former NY employee makes it clear to me again that Pret not only doesn’t learn its lessons, but Pret does not care whatsoever about employees, unless it serves PR. And even while I am not surprised anymore, this review has me in tears and my heart racing from remembering my ordeal.

I confronted Clive Schlee, CEO again on this with a tweet where he tweeted about plastic issues another Twitter person raised. But the CEO then deleted his tweet minutes after I tweeted. I know I tweet a lot, but people suffer and become suicidal and Pret under the leadership of Clive Schlee does business as usual and goes full steam ahead.

The time of the Tweet is American time, not UK.

 

2018-11-04 Clive deleted his Tweet

Link

 

 

The NY review quote:

“management is disrespectful, they fire people when they are having rough times in life even if they talk to manager about it , i was penalized for calling out for a funeral people who were stealing still work there but call out & youre fired”

 

 

2018-11-01 Funeral

01. Nov. 2018 NY

 

 

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2018 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

Before they mute my response to Pret’s CEO regarding Death…

 

Not good enough, Pret!! Not good enough!

Some of my tweets have been muted lately since the news broke of the girl who died (in 2016 already) from a Pret baguette due to allergy.

Before my response is deleted or muted again, here it is again.

Pret has absolutely NO excuse for this!

What I wrote in the tweet regarding “going the extra mile”, “striving for perfection”, “doing the right thing naturally”….

These are slogans, suggestions, requests and demands Pret has in place for staff. These always bothered me because Pret is not living up to their own demands.

Shortly after my brother’s death and mistreatment in the middle of grief, my suggestions since May 2015 to Pret’s HR department regarding staff treatment, especially of the bereaved have not only been ignored, but I have been bullied on top of it. Only when I involved Clive Schlee, CEO (who later labeled me his “late night girl”) did some support start, but a lot of it was to cover Pret’s own back. A lot was “Pret-entious”!

The bullying which became more subtle later on in the middle of my already traumatic bereavement have made me mentally ill with my emailing, which I extensively explain in other blog entries and how my ordeal started.

I still may be too naïve to have hopes that Pret TRULY can change direction if they put their priorities right. But I firmly believe Pret’s toxic and corrupt HR department needs a serious re-vamping in new leadership, as well as a new CEO who doesn’t just sweet-talk their way out of a disaster or tragedy when Pret gets caught “doing the wrong thing naturally”!

My response to Pret’s CEO as it may be deleted or muted like it was done with some of the other tweets:

 

2018-09-28 MY Response 2 Clive BBC2

 

Link to Tweet

 

Dear Clive Schlee and Pret,

I still have hopes that you change direction regarding work conditions, true customer care, quality of training staff to assist customers… away from your well oiled PR(et) machine and truly live up to your slogans. Not just for customers, but also  for staff, as we all are human beings, sir, not staff as work-machines and robots or customers as piggy banks for your millions.

For the sake of many who suffered to the point of even becoming suicidal, as well as for the public, that is becoming aware of the negligence in Pret which is not an isolated incidence.

Selected Quotes from staff complaints.

Sincerely,

Your Late Night Girl

 

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2018 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

Quote of the Day #59 – Pret A Anger

 

2018-09-13 #59 Staff Tweet2

 

 

2018-09-13 #59 Staff Tweet3

 

2nd July 2018 Leader Tweet NOTE: This tweet is visible but not the initial Tweet from Pret’s CEO, except when I am logged in to my Twitter as many of my tweets are “shadow banned” (Please google shadow banning – secret censorship).

 

Quote of the day:

 

“!!!! … !!!!! … !!!!!!!! … !!!”

 

— and —

 

“…go work with fever 40 degree because nobody can cover me as leader made me undervalued I was very depressed !!!!the management give to me a lot pressure complaints about because I was calling sick I asked help but nobody help me out to change shop… I have infection of my livers because expired dates food is not been checked properly dates nobody following standards… I’m surrendered because I chose health and my mental well-being…”

 

Translating this very common problem in Pret:

She is overworked, not appreciated, over pressured and can’t even take off sick because there is no leader to cover her. Management is either swamped themselves or don’t care as both situations I have experienced time and time again and many others complain about in what I compiled onto one page from different Employment Review websites and YouTube.

There is no time to do one of the most important things, which is to check for any items that went out of date. I have experienced this countless times, I did the date checks, then my boss came to work and started having a go at me for why I haven’t done anther job… If you do the other job, the boss has a go at you for why you didn’t do the date check! So, after a long time of bullshit like this, I prioritized with what the most important health and safety issue is and this was my argument when I was rebuked again.I said this many times, even while working in Pret when my colleagues were frustrated about the harsh leadership, I likened what Pret is doing with the metaphor of binding the feet of the employees and then demand for them to run! No matter which direction you stumbled, it was always wrong!

There is no proper training, no proper leadership, standards are low and this Team Leader is trying her utmost best to keep up standards and try to work as best under the circumstances. She finally decided to “surrender” (give up, quit) by tweeting this, maybe leaving Pret, maybe she was placed in a better shop so she won’t openly complain anymore.

One hint of this trend throughout the company is in this staff review, of cutting staff to maximize profits, but then the health and safety of staff and customers are compromised. Quote, “Either stop cutting hours or stop giving teams a ridiculous amount of tasks to complete.”

My experience with the bullying during my loss and trauma in 2015 came to its peak, which I describe extensively in another blog entry about how I was bullied and gaslighted which I named Pret A Manipulate. I was one of those Team Leaders as well, like this Leader in the Tweet here, who took my job very serious. In the shop where my ordeal was the most painful and scariest, there were no morning date checks done, only evening checks. So, when an item was found out of date, the evening Leader was penalized even though the standard was to do a morning date check, but that standard was not followed. I always stressed this to my Leader colleagues to do the morning date checks, and not just tick off the box in the daily date check list lying that the checks were done. They always said that there was no time, and I stressed again that we need to find the time as this is one of the most crucial tasks for health and safety reasons.

One evening I did miss to take out 1 (ONE!) Lemon Cheese Cake that would expire by the end of that day. I saw it in my evening checks that I did hours before closing time. I even circled it on the date check sheet for me to remember to later take it off the fridge and waste it, so it won’t be on the shelf the next day out of date. I even remembered that I checked again when we closed the shop at closing time, but I didn’t see it anymore. I assumed we sold it and I was delighted not to have to waste food and money, as this is a more expensive item to waste.

But the area manager who targeted me for months for little things did one of her checks the next day, which was my day off (interesting she did the check on my day off!) and she found that ONE Lemon Cheese Cake. Long story short, she tried to penalize me, wanting to put me on targets etc. while in reality a colleague of mine left multiple items out of date in the fridges and was known for his poor working conduct by all colleagues. At one point he left about 40 – 50 items that were out of date in the fridges in ONE night, which I then found on my next morning shift and during the checks couldn’t believe how many items I had to pull off the shelves! Also, as there were no morning date checks, which is standard, but in that shop no-one except me was doing the morning double check, I was still the one she wanted to put on performance targets! I realized very quickly that she was targeting me.

But it backfired on her when I found the 40 – 50 items a few days later, communicating this to her and asking her for a meeting to speak about why I am being treated so harsh for little mistakes while I worked my butt off DURING the darkest time of my life having lost my brother. From then on she tried to get rid of me, shifting me around shops and using other managers to target me further. I realized very quickly that ANYTHING, the smallest thing can be used against a person if someone is out to target them. From this time onward the rota was adjusted to include the standard morning date checks!

 

Anger.jpg

 

This among the many other mistreatment I share on my blog, made me so paranoid, mentally ill, and I still now suffer from panic attacks. For a regular person who isn’t going through trauma or bereavement this would be already a nightmare to deal with, but I was in the middle of dark grief and had to also be dealing with poor, terrible management like this. I felt like I was stumbling through a war zone in a mine field, being shot at from different sides trying to desperately get out this mess!

I almost ended my life and this is why I write so passionately about my Pret experience, because people become mentally and/or physically unwell at best and suicidal at worst.

In a drunken stupor I write my anger in Tweets and on my blog at times, trying to still come to terms, and I am not proud of it, but I will never ever be silent about what I have been through in the middle of grief and trauma, which was then added by repeated mistreatment, manipulation, gaslighting in Pret A Manger.

 

 

 

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2019 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

How I became a Late Night Girl

 

Clive Schlee, CEO of Pret A Manger stepped on my dignity, patronizing me by calling me his “late night girl” two months before Pret fired me while my dad was in intensive care, just out of a coma. Why he labeled me this I explain on my blog here in detail. I adopted this “label” to be a sore in Pret’s sight, in hopes they will never do to employees again what they’ve done to me.

 

18-tk-ca-2012.jpg

 

On 12. January 2015 I woke up and checked my email while still in bed blurry-eyed. Bed, the most vulnerable and safe place to be in. I had late shift that week and thought I quickly check my mail before turning around to sleep some more and later go to work.

I found myself making the fastest jump out of bed I’ve ever made, but that jump felt like slow motion, as if I got stuck in mid air and my room was moving by me in an eerie pace. The light painted wall became fogged up like someone just poured a dust-like grey powder over it. When I landed on my feet, I felt like a deformed cartoon character out of a Tom & Jerry fighting scene, who got whacked over the head and entered into another world. But it was more like a shotgun hole in my gut, something ripped life out of my system and left a huge crater behind.

My bedroom wasn’t my bedroom anymore, my apartment wasn’t my apartment anymore, my mind wasn’t my mind anymore. It was just like it feels when you return from a two or three week trip to a different country and culture, returning home and your place has a different feel to it, a stale atmosphere because you’ve gotten used to a different place, food, impressions, language.

Of course your apartment or house is still the same, it’s just you who has to readjust to the familiar and safe place you know so well and fill it with life again. But for me it was like I’ve come “home” to hell. It was the beginning of a very long and dark time in that world, which I am still standing in with one foot, while the other foot is trying to venture out to find green pastures.

In a 6 or 7 sentence email the sender went down a quick and short route to inform me that my brother has been found dead in his flat on the 15. December 2014. Next of kin could not be found in time (in a country as efficient as Germany!). Cause of death not clear, no autopsy, he lay dead for an estimated 6 days plus/minus before he was found, and then they just cremated him before finding us!

[After I flew over the next day to personally – not over the phone! – bring my mum the death of her son she gave life to, we arranged for his urn to be brought over from the city where he lived in. To our utter disbelief they sent his urn via post to the city’s council where my mum lives, so we can bury whatever was left of my brother close to my mum. Another German procedure I didn’t know was even done like this, sending an urn via post?!]

Furthermore I was advised to reject the inheritance as his estate was highly in debt, which also meant I learned later that I could not retrieve any of his belongings and was informed later that any belongings with no financial value has been destroyed…

The email ended with some other instructions. Kind regards.

My phone became like a curse in my hand that I could not understand that this was a phone I was holding, just starring at it, reading an electronic mail giving me a message of death.

I died that day.

 

 

 

07 TP crop

 

When Machines Bring You Death

 

A Plea!

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2019 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

Unquiet Grief

 

 

Unquiet Grief

The wind does blow
today my bro

A few small drops
of rain

I’ll never have
such a brother again

In a cold grave
his ashes remain

I’d do as much
for my true blood
as any sibling may

I’ll sit and mourn
all at his thought

Forever
and a day

The months
and the days
been rough
the dead began
to speak

Oh, who sits weeping
at the thought of me
and will not
let me sleep

It’s me my brother
who weeps at your fate
and will not let you sleep

I crave one hint
of what occurred to you
and that is all I seek

You crave one hint
of what occurred to me
the truth may be
hefty strong

If you’ve one hint from my
cold grave, sis
your time may not
be long

I stand and wonder
at the past so green
and go where we used to play

The finest mem’ry
that has ever been
is broken down to clay

My life has turned to dust,
my kin
so will our hearts decay

So make yourself
content, little sis
till God calls you away

— for my brother who just left like that.

 

“Unquiet Grave” 15th century folk-tale

Music: Kris Drever / LAU

 

©2016/2018 poetrasblok.com

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – Present poetrasblok.com, expret.org, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

I am Tired

 

Tired to convince even close friends

who hide under a protective blanket

of indifference to suffering

that some things are just

plainly wrong and unacceptable

Since January 2015

my life is nothing but loss

The last 3+ years my life

is like sand running through my fingers

I have become like an outcast

I am not a desired guest at

Christmas dinners

or birthday parties

or walks in the park

On 12. January 2015 I learned

via a cold email

that my brother was found dead

in his flat

on 15. December 2014

I learned in one email

that they couldn’t find next of kin

that they cremated him

that his flat has been emptied

that he had debt

that his belongings that had no value

were destroyed

We received a box with paperwork

photos, ID cards, letters…

memories

A Box

An Urn

A Hell

Everything else,

every fibre of my brother

Gone

I went to work

to the funeral

to my family

on my shock

on my anger

on my loss

on trying to understand

how an efficient German system

can mess up like this?

I worked hard to find answers

I went to work in Pret A Manger

that worked hard in return

to get rid of me

tricking and trapping me

from beginning to end

I became an inconvenience

that needed to be discarded

like a broken machine

Since January 2015

I lost my brother in December

I lost friends

I lost my mind

I lost my job

I buried my dad

I am losing my mum to dementia

I have lost my mental health

I have lost trust in systems

any system

I have lost faith in workplaces

with their slick slogans and PR

mistreating their workers

for gain

fooling the public

for gain

again

I have lost faith in words

that are not backed with deeds

I have lost confidence in leadership

that should not be called “leadership”

but mis-leadership!

“leaders” who don’t understand what

it means to lead,

but who follow their own

selfish gain

Leaders who are captains

of ships but jump ship

first when it sinks

leaving a multitude

of passengers to

fend for themselves

I have lost confidence in the police

who don’t care to investigate properly

I have lost hope in “charity”

that is just big business

using poor people

and little children

to raise money

And politicians?

Don’t get me started!

I am tired of people

being overwhelmed with

my story

I am tired of those

blaming me for not

copying well

I am tired of excuses

that this society

can’t handle grief

and loss

I am tired that professionals

can’t deal with ONE person

right in front of them

I lost the sun

but I know it shines

I lost my taste for life

but I know I live

I lost the fear of my

friends’ anger

whose silent appeal,

that I lost my way

my person,

deafens me

I may be mentally out-of-sync

but I have a voice

that needs to be heard

I may have postponed

my ability to quickly

forgive

but I have a message

that is still not known

And if no one else speaks out

I still have a beating heart

willing to volunteer

I have lost fear

of bullying

by a company who prides

itself in smiles and

customer service

on the backs of hardworking

people of integrity

I am not paralyzed anymore

under fear management

I am not intimidated

by powerful people

whose only “courage” it is

to step on those

who are already broken

on the ground

I am tired

but I will never be silent again

nor give up

nor believe the voices of

indifference and complacency

that this is just the norm

This is NOT the norm

this is WRONG!

 

— Late Night Girl

 

In memory of my brother, Thomas whose death I was robbed to grieve in peace and timely manner.

 

Hand Sunflowers pexels-photo-1287103

 

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2019 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

When His Ash was Still Warm

 

I must have been asleep
or working in the heated environment
of Pret A Manger
where there is no break from
customers
or bullying managers

My brother’s ashes must have just
come out of the furnace
when I had lunch, maybe?
Or was I at a concert?

I know that I was at a gig of
Piers Faccini on the 8th Dec. 2014
in London
a day before my brother
supposedly died + – a day or so
in Germany

I got a letter from court
two days ago
from the court in the city
where my family lives
reminding me after their
initial letter from April
to inform them
of my brother’s address
to be informed
of my dad’s last will
that he made 30 years ago
when we were kids

And I’m still thinking
why I am so fooled to believe
in a German system of efficiency
and registry

And I want to burn my German ID card
as it is of no use to find next of kin
should I just be burned after leaving

I decided not to answer the court
that wasted their postage on me
because they are the Law
they are a court
that need to get up and
investigate properly

My brother’s ashes are cold now
and I have come accustomed to
the tough soil
after 3+ years
that I was burning in grief
after I heard the news
and desperately trying
to unburn him
while being chased
and shoved around
abandoned
and torched with scorn
left on the wayside
at Pret A Manger

And I have nothing to give
not even a thought

My mind is empty
of any thought

 

 
©2018 poetrasblok.com 

 

 

Bild010_Neg.Nr.11

 

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2019 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

PRet A Manger

 

What makes Pret being Pret? Not doing the right thing “naturally” as their slogan says. What does Pret do next to nothing that makes them unmistakably Pret?

 

Word PR.Isolated on white background.3d rendered illustration.

 

I was awaiting an open retaliation or “tangible” trouble for going public with my traumatic experience in Pret, but no, I have to be disappointed again! I should have learned by now!

Pret’s done it again, the PR thing. This blog entry is for them of course a welcome contribution to their PR. I am feeling generous today and will explain why below.

Usually on Pret’s and the CEO’s Twitter there is something about a new product or a scheme like new cutlery, bottles etc. pinned to their pages, but since recently Pret’s pinned tweets are about all the good deeds Pret loves to advertise to the public, how Pret gives jobs to people who were homeless etc. So far so good.

So, the Tweet goes: Look at what lovely things we’re doing! Braaaaggg:

Btw, as an “Ex-Pret” I suggest to run from Pret before the stars fall from the sky!

Twitter Pret

 

and then:

 

Twitter Pret2

… while other staff members are unfairly dismissed and made homeless.

And on the CEO Twitter the pin is about the £1000 for every employee.

This sudden generosity, where it used to take 10 years of service in Pret to receive £1K now is “thrown” at all new and long-term staff, which to me looks like Pret is desperate to recruit and retain their staff, while making others redundant in HQ. Just shifting the money a bit in the midst of this Brexit angst.

 

Twitter Clive

 

So, what’s my problem with these? No problem at all, looks all very sweet and lovely, except to say that I crinch at this hypocrisy!

And I can’t help but think also of age-discrimination. All the former homeless people in the photo seem in their 20s or no older than 30s, as well as the apprenticeship scheme with young people who are paid less per hour, means that the “investment” in them will pay out longer than taking over 40 or 50 year old former homeless people. Young people don’t know their workplace rights yet, they are easily to be brainwashed and molded into a system whereas an older person comes with a lot of life experience and a zero tolerance for bullshit.

One review from a former employee has put it in more “krass” words, that even I find a bit too strong, but the reviewer, a former Assistant Manager who has a little more insights into upper level management and tactics than I have, wrote, quote:

“now the company is just about the profit also it is run like mafia organisation where it is about who you know, the team member are over worked and managers are always working with fear … Get back to basic, care about the team and always listen to the little people, also be open and get rid of some top management who are so corrupt.”

I can certainly verify about the favouritism in Pret where you can work your butt off but are never promoted while an incapable and bullying team member sleeps their way through the ranks. But I just don’t have the courage to say the “M*fia” word and rather quote it, but the PR stunt is certainly a close relative to how Mafia organisations work. They “rampage” their way through a region and town, and in-between they give money to the little people and make substantial donations to charity.

Of course with the Mafia it is a mix of bribery, money laundering and “investing” in the little people, so when they need a boost in their reputation, the small folk will stand up and say what great deed this organisation has done for them! Super duper clever PR in a nutshell.

And a former IT Analyst of 8 years in Pret giving a review on HQ, quote:

“Manipulative and exploitative approach to employees as owners and senior management concerned about profit margin only. People are taken into account only if it makes good PR. Genuinely fake and dishonest company.”

 

2018-07-06 Head Office PR

 

To pin ones photo with ex-homeless staff on ones Twitter feed and try to buy current and new staff with £1000 incentives, while the atmosphere in shops show a different story, is what my problem is with this.

Now, I am really glad for these and other ex-homeless people to not only get a shot at work and a new life again, visiting the CEO’s Austrian PRoperty, and also for the apPRentices, who are all treated a little “softer” then the rest of the workforce, but if this is the only response to my public outcry, I am really disappointment. And if I was a former homeless person, I would be really ticked off in being used for a PR stunt like this.

You may say as some have that I am very passionate about my Pret-rants, or you may think that I am too angry. Yes, both true, and if you have followed my story with Pret you will know why, if you agree with my public outcry not, but you will know why.

For any new reader, in a nutshell, I worked in Pret for almost 10 years. After 7 years of service I was bereaved as my brother died and the circumstances around his death and how I received the news were extremely shocking and traumatic. But regardless how his death was or how I received the news, bereavement is bereavement, and instead of being supported, I was bullied, targeted, excluded, shouted at by line manager after line manager, tricked and trapped by Pret’s corrupt HR department and patronized by the CEO who labeled me his “late night girl”. The support that I then received was a lot to cover up their tracks and a Pret-ense in many ways.

Because the managers in shops are not trained in how to deal with a bereaved staff member, the Head of HR met with me after I contacted the CEO for help when the bullying became unbearable. At the first meeting the Head of HR asked me how meeting with him was for me on a scale of 1 – 10. Confused at this weird question but in hindsight understanding that he had the need to get his ego scratched, falsely assuming I was “star struck” in having met with a big gun. Nope, I wasn’t impressed, especially after I approached HR for almost a year with suggestions for support, hitting a brick wall! I needed to meet with and the support from my line managers who were at a loss, frustrated and angry with me, belittling and offensive, and as one bullying line manager wrote in an email to his boss that my situation was “imposed” on him.

And another time the Head of HR met with me again while I was in the middle of a 3-months sick leave, but then not knowing it would turn into 3 months, a sick leave that was kick-started by my line manager shouting at us leaders again for no apparent reason and my anxiety level couldn’t handle this anymore. In this sick-leave I had my first massive panic attack in my sleep, waking up from or with a panic attack I didn’t know one can have in ones sleep. Dragging myself to A&E at 5am in the morning thinking I’m in the middle of a heart attack and the fear of death in me.

The Head of HR met with me again then and made the first of four settlement offers if I resign and be quiet about my ordeal as well as not go to court. Of course I refused as I don’t prostitute my values, nor am I willing to suffer in and “of” silence for the rest of my life. And then he had the audacity to want a “cuddle” when we finished the meeting where we met in a Cafe Nero. Not quite the professional end of meeting I would have respected as such. He put his arms around me and I remember ducking down confused, and later thinking to myself, that he should make up his mind if he wants me to leave or if he wants to cuddle! You can’t have both, sir! But then I heard a few things about him later, and again a lot made sense.

 

 

images.washingtonpost.com

A tutorial

 

Before my brother died, I had a normal life, friends, projects, hobbies, normal problems, bills, just a plain life. Now, Pret was always hard, rude, bullying, but I was able to see through and resist the fear management style most of the time and not take the stress home too much. But when I was thrust into traumatic grief and still working really well, even making the effort to bring suggestions to Pret, I was then drenched in great fear and anxiety that bereavement and trauma brings with it as a default. But this extreme fear was intensified by the bullying culture in Pret. I was like a zombie stumbling around and still don’t know how I even survived this.

So, now where I am publishing openly about my and other people’s experience, having been scared so much by and of Pret, intimidated, confused, angered, now where I am openly confronting this bullying system of Pret, Pret does not have the “balls” so-to-speak to not only apologize, but to respond in a way that would give them a chance to “safe face” and even more, to truly make a difference for their workers as this system is hurting them, and with it Pret in the long-run.

 

YT_JamesHoffmann_Reply2

 

And as it is with everything in life, the truth always comes out, prolonged fear leads to anger and people eventually start to speak out, like in this unprecedented example of sexual violence in Hollywood and the outcry that was kick-started by a little hashtag #metoo that has brought and is still bringing rapists, bullies and abusers to justice. The same it is with systemic workplace bullying, a system like this cannot hide forever behind a PRet smile.

So, posting sweet little photos with former homeless people, using their stories for great PR, and advertising on the rooftops what good deed they’re doing now with the £1000 sudden generosity to each employee, I will refrain from saying what word comes to mind!

 

A former staff member, Andrej Stopa, who was fired for starting a Pret Union is a little more lucky than I to have none other then Andrea Wareham, Director of HR following him on Twitter, which might just be Pret’s way to signal to Andrej that they’re having an eye on him. Keeping him nicely tucked in as long as he doesn’t rock the boat too much.

 

 

Twitter Wareham PAMSU

 

Up until recently I was honoured to have a “Mystery Shopper” on my Twitter following. I had some followers but 1 was invisible, which gave me a good dose of confirmation that when someone has to hide their page, I might be doing something that troubles them.

Unfortunately the Mystery Shopper from my Twitter following has left, or maybe made themselves visible. And as I am customer focused, everyone is welcome!

 

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – Present poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

The Cost of Systemic Workplace Bullying

 

There are always numbers floating around in the news on the economical costs for work-related illnesses caused by stress and bullying. Those numbers go into the millions and billions each year. But I want to stay away from quoting any numbers, as I don’t know for sure how high the financial cost for this is or where the media gets these statistics from. And handling abstract numbers like this doesn’t really magnify the cause and true human cost behind it. I can speak only from my experience first hand and also from my observation and conversations on how colleagues are/were treated. The cost I am concentrating on, apart from mental illness and personal financial loss, is the cost of life itself.

Workplace bullying costs lives, and on that no amount or number is adequate enough to cover the costs as a life lost cannot be recovered. Once life is gone, it is gone. Health can be regained, financial loss can be won again, but once life is gone, that’s it, point of no return. Keep your numbers, keep counting your money, and keep hiding the consequences of workplace bullying under the carpet.

pexels-photo-551588

My aim is not just to raise awareness of workplace bullying, as so many do already, and to find ways to stop it as best as I can in my sphere of influence, and make companies rethink their approach and value their employees and understand true leadership. My aim is to really take a closer look at a system in this day and age that is epidemic worldwide in this globalization we find ourselves in where huge companies imitate and apply what made other companies rich or what is so commonly called “successful”.

If I look at the conflicts in the world, the big ones and the small ones, wars, unrest, uprisings, legal battles, cyber attacks, workplace inequality etc. etc. It all has a common thread running through its core: class war and the struggle for dominance. Ian Hodson, a person who represents true leadership, points this out in one of his speeches. And to me, having worked with too many poor “leaders” that I don’t even want to call leaders and just put them in “quotation marks” for the poor management they display, the problem with greed is that it is never satisfied as it is a bottomless pit where no amount is ever enough, like Mahatma Gandhi so poetically and poignantly said that “There is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” And paradoxically or amazingly, whichever way you want to look at it, he “landed” not only on stamps but on money as well! I wonder how many top executives, bankers, CEOs and anyone who makes their wealth on the backs of regular working people while being responsible for the misery of many an employee, will have their image imprinted on money or a stamp! Hardly any to none.

Ganhi pexels-photo-164636

The majority of people just want to live a normal, content life, work hard, pay their bills, raise their kids and see them thrive. They don’t cause any trouble, are reliable at work, care about their surroundings, but they find themselves in situations like I have found myself in and have collected here, unnecessary bulls**t that regular hard working, decent people with integrity have to deal with on a daily basis. Lives that are hurt and even destroyed by incompetence and carelessness of the top. I just about survived having come out on the other side bruised and damaged internally to speak about it. And if this happened to me even during the darkest time of my life, how many people have a similar story happen to them, but they crumbled under the mental strain and aren’t so lucky to happen to have a passion in writing and speaking out.

Because people everywhere and throughout history selfishly tend to just think from 12 to noon, not looking at the long-term effects and only in the long-run seeing the costs and consequences of bullying, but by then being way over the hill far away and gone from the consequences of their deeds. They pressure the very people who make this greedy wealth happen for them, they prefer to turn the blind eye repeatedly until they indeed become blinded to the difference of right and wrong. They twist and turn, cheat and lie so much they start to believe their own lies. They will by then have become so skilled in selling this lie to the next generation of “leaders”, who don’t have a clue what leadership means, even at its simple base of the definition. They mistake leadership with tyranny and loading it over the very workforce they should be taking care of by valuing and furthering them, if they don’t want these employees to one day turn around and bite them back in the butt! Fear management, prolonged fear in general leads to anger, and repeated mistreatment will not go “unpunished” in the long-run.

k20173303

The next generation of “leaders” will have taken up on the corrupt ways they learned and were subjected under, they continue to move in and even grow this toxic culture in the workplace and everywhere at that. It is a swim or drown situation of deciding to either become this kind of “leadership” to escape being at the receiving end of unjust treatment or stay under oppression and when the time comes, leave. Survival of the fittest at its best. This is of course in politics, schools, at home, everywhere, the struggle to dominate to not be dominated, but this is especially rampant in today’s multi-national companies that elbow their way through the high-streets with a smile and good PR.

And yes, I have received some support after almost a year of approaching the HR dept. being sent to into all directions and the support I then received came only after I contacted Pret’s CEO. A lot of the “support” was also for Pret-ense, but the core problem remained: suppressive leadership, bullying, exclusion, being shouted at, threats of job loss, tricked and trapped, not being given vital information needed to do the job, even weeks before I was dismissed with my dad in intensive care my last line manager did not invite me to the leadership Christmas dinner, it never ended. And then ultimately having been tricked and trapped again being dismissed while my dad just came out of a coma! This is Pret “doing the right thing naturally“.

It is so common with slogans like this that when an organization advertises something like this, it is a dead giveaway that it is the opposite. I had a complacent line manager once telling me what a hard worker he is, I laughed to myself thinking that, oh well, if he was such a hard worker he would be too busy working hard bringing the results than speaking about it!

So, what is the cost of workplace bullying? I survived to say that it has almost cost my life! And this is taking lives of many people everywhere in the world who didn’t have the strength to come full circle to talk about it. For anyone who survived or went through or even didn’t survive workplace bullying and unfair dismissals, and for their loved ones I speak out.

 

man-320273__340

 

What to me is very disheartening but does not come as a surprise is, that Pret’s leadership hasn’t even gotten the courage to respond to my public outcry yet. They have the “courage” to stress, suppress and mistreat staff, even while going through bereavement! But they can’t stand up to my public outcry. When they are contacted by customers about my blog, they sweet talk their way out of it as usual. Sure, they were probably instructed by their legal team to remain silent and let me rant and rave, and hopefully make mistakes which they can then use against me. Go ahead, I’m not going anywhere.

And it certainly is difficult and a sheer embarrassment for them as the top leadership has gotten involved. In Pret the common tactic to “motivate” their managers and shop teams to do better when they fail, is to name and shame them in front of the whole company. When a shop fails in a certain way like Health & Safety check-ups for example, all the shops are emailed with the poor results of that shop and where they failed, really shaming the manager. It’s a simple tactic to scare all shops to overwork for good results so Pret can show-off what a wonderful company they are. Of course they also brag on shops that bring amazing numbers and results, but it is also a tactic to make shops jealous so-to-speak, again to work even harder in this stressful environment. But I prefer a hidden agenda in praise anytime, to naming those who fail. And yet, here is Pret’s leadership being caught out failing their staff, and this is my turn to name their failings in the hopes they will improve in how they treat their staff, as this has almost cost my life and is hurting people who make Pret’s growth happen. What a shame:

  • The CEO belittling me as his “late night girl” in front of the Director of HR due to my ill late night emails which I extensively explain in my blog what happened to me; him minimizing my conduct that I tried so hard to overcome, and which to my surprise didn’t only happen to me in a workplace!
  • The Head of HR & Recruitment wanting me to stroke his ego by telling him on a scale of 1 to 10 how it was for me meeting with him, while I really needed to meet with my line managers who were at a loss… Uhm, sorry I still can’t answered that weird and self-serving question. The Head of HR missed my almost year long effort to bring suggestions on how to improve and support bereaved employees before I then finally contacted the CEO for help (stupid mistake as they were just having a laugh!)
  • Most managers who were out of their league in how to deal with me while I always gave them help and suggestions what would help me, but their refusal just made this mess worse.
  • OPs managers who were like a flag in the wind back and forth, stuck and stumbling between pleasing HR and having gotten to know me, not as this crazy person everyone was told about, but as someone who actually has a lot to share and bring to the table, even while being lost in grief and trauma… Well, they snooze, they lose!
  • A Development Manager having been used to give me a disciplinary for my emailing because she supposedly lost her brother very similarly to how I lost mine. But then her unallowed entering into solely electronic communication with me which with all the other emails gotten me dismissed while my dad was in intensive care, just out of a coma! Using her and her allowing for her tragedy to be used like this was a clever plan but the most disrespectful thing they have done, hoping to get to me via this “friendly fire” by stepping on bereaved people’s dignity like this. But this crossed a line and it only backfired.

This shows how incompetent and careless they are, and I cannot stop concluding how incredibly arrogant the conduct of an elite group is, that are at the top of a company. A company that was made big by regular working people, of which many of them have degrees and education from their home countries, but happen to not speak English as best yet, ending up working in Pret. Professionals with PhD’s whose degrees are not accepted in the UK and who are forced to study further to get the adequate degree as they cannot find work in their home country with what they specialize in. I worked with a colleague who back in his small Brazilian town was the secretary to the town’s mayor! I worked with a lady, also from a small Brazilian town having been a bank manager at the local bank there. I worked with talented IT people and artists, with a lawyer from Spain who has her degree in law etc. etc. These people were often patronized and treated like complete idiots, just because they didn’t speak English very well having the managers assume they can just discriminate highly intelligent and educated people who are forced to make sandwiches and coffee for some of the most snobbiest customers, just because their English isn’t quite there yet.

But back to my ordeal, what Pret did by using the Development Manager, and her allowing this was then the main push for me to go public while licking my wounds and after burying my dad, almost needing to be buried myself.

The heart of Pret gotten involved and messed up bigger than anyone on the shop floor could ever mess up. They have presented themselves as a “leadership” with their conduct and style that is trickled down, and reflected on the shop floor with shop after shop having extremely poor management with countless complaints about this.

Here is a company that is next to nothing when it comes to PR and how they present this nice facade to the public, while people internally are suffering. Yes, there are many good things in place like helping the homeless get back into work (while making other employees homeless by unfair dismissals!), the apprenticeship scheme (young people are cheaper in labour and easily fooled not having had enough experience in life yet, not knowing their rights), giving left over food each night to charities etc. And I don’t want to question the motif behind those schemes while still acknowledging that this makes excellent PR.

But the trouble with PR(et) always is that it is only one-sided. And in time the truth always comes to light. It always takes just one person to kick-start a true view of the company and stand up with the message, that this time they picked on the wrong person and especially at the wrong time! When a company as wealthy, sophisticated and rich in resources like Pret crosses a line by not even stopping to mistreat an employee who has been thrust into bereavement and trauma, and this company trying so hard to get rid of this “inconvenient” employee, even though this employee is still working extremely well under traumatic circumstances, helping the company succeed, it just shows how indifferent and plainly arrogant a company like this is for believing itself invincible.

I have been told by several people that I make them grow, well I hate to be the one making a now multi-billion company grow up!

pexels-photo-164527

So, Pret will continue their PR and will find tricks and traps again in their own way how to get back at me for speaking out. And who knows what leadership changes will come in place after the JAB takeover as some people in HQ have already been made redundant. And silence might just be their tactic in the hopes this will just go away in time. No, it won’t! Important people are picking up on it, and it is time.

And this is the important thing that more and more people have become aware of how it really looks behind the scenes, and hopefully this will help that not more employees become ill and suicidal. My aim is NOT to hurt anyone, but to help that not more people are getting hurt! In the “return-to-work” interview sheet for employees who were off sick and returned to work, there is one question regarding the symptoms of the illness, one question that asks if the employee has anxiety issues related to work. There is a reason why this is asked as the main “motivating” factor in Pret is fear management and pressure resulting in bullying the very people they need to be treating well, but fail to.
I have had countless threats to my job security in my almost 10 years in Pret. I was an extremely good Team Leader and employee, I don’t say this to float my boat, because I am crap in other things, but I know how good I was at my job and received many many compliments from my teams and customers. And yet I was often in sheer fear to lose my job for no valid reason! And when this even intensified during bereavement and trauma where they still continued in this tactic, they crossed a line.

When I have a good moment I write more creatively and with a good pinch of humour and sarcasm I write things like my “IMAGINARY but Honest Interview with Pret A Manger” to highlight the ridiculousness of their efforts to hide the work conditions and staff treatment. It is my way of having a laugh at Pret for a change after them having a laugh about me becoming ill after trauma in bereavement and bullying at work.

What happened to me and all the Staff Complaints I have compiled unto one page just shows how unprofessional and indifferent Pret is. In time more people will come out and tell their stories. I know Pret is working hard in the background on some things. I am sure as they are many and as a huge company they should be able to handle ONE person. I for my part have sent a clear message as direct and also as creative as possible, that has drawn the line where after all I have been through, giving Pret the benefit of the doubt again and again, I have decided for good to not drink anyone’s dirty water no more! The CEO is not following his own advise to deal with issues fast. I’m still waiting, and so are others.

With a Pret A Manger smile!

Strong woman smudge smiley

 


 

I worked at Pret A Manger for almost 10 years and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the CEO. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post. I also tell my story for the first time verbally in this >>> podcast interview based in California. Thank you for reading/listening.

Interview:

©2018/2019 expret.org

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.

©2017 – Present: expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

The Definition of Bullying

 

Bullying can kill

 

When my brother died I went into extreme darkness, shock and trauma, and at the same time straight into autopilot. Apart from all the errands I had to run and things I had to do, I kept working because I had no choice. I lost all my savings for all the bills that came up, flights, living costs etc. I was forced to keep working.

During that time the bullying in Pret did not stop, it even gotten worse where they tried to cut me out of my leadership position. One incidence I just came back from a two week holiday in warm Florida and Virginia having visited with friends, one of whom I share my birthday with, and our combined friends gave us a trip on a boat to watch dolphins further out on the ocean. I didn’t enjoy the holiday as I usually do, but I relaxed and enjoyed my friends. In hindsight this was the darkest time, the whole year and the following was, but this time even while the sun was beaming and my friends were so lovely, it was so dark for me.

My guard was somewhat down, just having returned from a warm climate, warm in weather and in people, to then returning to the cold early December weather in London. When I returned to work my then line manager was tense and as usual would tell me off in front of my team. As an employee to be told off repeatedly in front of your colleagues is already wrong and hard enough, but as a team leader being told off again in front of my team I couldn’t bear anymore.

After just starting work again, with my guard down and this having been two days before the first anniversary of my brother’s death, I couldn’t take the telling off anymore and I just broke down right then and their in front of everyone. I cried and shouted uncontrollably, tried to take my jacket and pushed a tall colleague a little to the side who was just standing behind me. Shocked at him standing there, because I didn’t realize someone was behind me, I just pushed him out of shock, crying, trying to grab my jacket to leave the shop.

The line manager kept telling me to get out on the shop floor to serve customers. I was extremely in shock, afraid I would lose my job if I take my jacket and leave. The guy I pushed (not purposely, but in shock) just said to me “Don’t push me!” When he said that I just wept and repeatedly said “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”

NO ONE tried to calm me down or console me, absolutely no one!

The line manager flung the office door to the shop floor open and with a delegating pointing finger towards the shop floor ordered me out. In tears and immense shock I served customers, and not even customers asked me what happened. My colleagues outside did, who didn’t witness what happened in the office. They asked what’s going on, but I couldn’t tell them.

I raised a grievance, which at first HR didn’t want to do. I then contacted the CEO and only then did they conduct a hearing. The hearing manager in a nutshell rejected everything, rejected that it was bullying and even flipped it around putting the blame on me for being aggressive (breakdown!!)! Shock after shock after shock after shock after shock….

I appealed the outcome and in a 4.5 hour appeal’s hearing the hearing manager and HR note taker played dumb and pretended (Pret-ended!) to not understand what my problem is. The hearing manager in fact than asked me another shocking question:

“What is your definition of bullying?”

I remember just starring at her… Did she really just asked me that??!

To make it short, the appeal was partially substantiated, but not that it was bullying, but only that the line manager after I broke down did not show “compassion”. I understand only in hindsight that they tried to avoid admitting that bullying of a bereaved employee not only happened, but kept continuing. In fact I was put into the role of the bully then because I became loud and in tears crying out irrationally.

In hindsight I would answer the question of what my definition of bullying is, with the question of what this OPs manager’s definition of bullshit is?!

As you read you would ask why on earth I didn’t go to Tribunal then. I cannot explain this, I cannot explain the irrational fear I was in, the intense trauma and fog. I entered into self-blame which was perfect for Pret, because I suffered from sibling survivor guilt. I felt, and still feel somewhat that I let my brother down. Why did I survive my big brother?! What have I done to deserve to live!?

In later grievance appeal’s hearing I raised against an HR People Business Partner who kept sending me away when I asked for support, I explained the background of my turmoil up until my communications with this PBP, when I came to the point about being rebuked again, breaking down and in my broken down state being send out to do customer service, the hearing manager asked me if my GP can verify that I had a breakdown! I cannot explain the Twilight Zone I was in with incident after incident of systemic bullying in a work environment.

So, the bullying felt more like I was just imagining wrong doing because I already am suffering on the inside, lost over 35kg (while having free food around me every day!), couldn’t eat, was in physical pain, tinnitus, a complete and utter mess inside. I gave everybody the benefit of a doubt, except myself. How sick I have become and how wrong I was to let them step all over me, but I was in a different world, traumatized and on autopilot.

I became suicidal and had several close calls and am moving on to tell my story, no matter what they’ll throw at me!

So, to the OPs manager who did the appeal’s hearing asking me my definition of bullying, and to Pret, I have a question: Would the below count as definition of bullying?

 

Quote of the Day Pret #4

(New York)

 

This one maybe?

Quote Pret #22 Racist

(NYC)

 

Or this one?

Quote Pret #23 Racism

 

How about this!

Quote Pret #21 Just Terrible

(Chicago)

 

This?

Quote Pret #09a Hellhole

Quote Pret #09b Hellhole

 

 

Quote Pret #15 Harsh

(London)

 

 

Quote Pret #19 Avoid

 

Quote Pret #20 Terrible Company

 

(NYC)

 

Quote Pret #11 Squandered Opportunities

 

Quote Pret #25 Brainwash

 

For the sake of my wrist trying to avoid carpal tunnel, a long but not exhaustive list can be found here:

Pret A Manger Staff Complaints

Would the above answer your question dear OPs manager? If you don’t think that bullying a bereaved employee and in their trauma send them out to do customer service, in a company that prides itself in customer service does not look like bullying to you, then I really feel for your lack of emotional intelligence and you conspiring with a toxic HR department like this!

 

The Cost of Systemic Workplace Bullying

The Cost of Systemic Workplace Bullying – 2

Workplace Bullying Costs Lives

Workplace Bullying Costs Lives – 2

Pret’s Modern Slavery Statement vs. Pret’s Modern Slavery Practices

Pret A Manger Staff Complaints ~~~ & ~~~ Selected Quotes

How I became a Late Night Girl

 

 

Late Night Girl2

 

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2019 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.